Northern Hills Alliance for Children Fundraiser TONIGHT

This is the poster created from one of the children's paintings.  This is Gavin's piece.
If you are in the Deadwood, SD area tonight, stop by the Masonic Temple where the silent auction & sale of the children's artwork created a month ago at the First Steps after school day care.  The paintings themselves will be for sale and ALSO note cards and mugs created from these paintings.  Besides the paintings, other children produced the most beautiful photography I've seen in a long time!  The event is this evening, 5pm to 7pm.  Refreshments, wine, music, and art.

Besides the children's art, this event coincides with the BLACK HILLS PAINT OUT!  The plein air painters have been very busy all around the hills and the WET SALE will also be taking place at the Masonic Temple. 

Radio Station Mural

Debbie and I were asked to do a children's mural for a wall in the General Manager's office (Al Knickrehm) of WIXN of Dixon, Illinois.

General Manager, Capt. Al.

Our student artists: Joel, Abby, Molly

Debbie showed pictures of old-time radios to her classes of 5th and 6th graders. They then drew them out and painted them as imaginatively and colorfully as they wished.

Debbie and I then sorted through them to find the most appropriate for the office wall. We then sketched their drawings in pencil on the wall, composing them into a flowing and interesting mural.

On Friday, at noon, after filling up on Al's pizza, Debbie, me, and 3 great kids (Joel, Molly, and Abby), took to the wall and painted each radio. Once we all got accustomed to what we were doing, it went along like a dream.

After the kids' parents picked them up at 3 p.m., Debbie and I continued on outlining and highlighting the radios.

This makes 8 ... count'em 8 ... murals we've done around the city of Dixon.

Below are the pictures of the day. Click on any image to enlarge.

Debbie and Joel getting started.

Debbie & Abby trying to stay out of each other's way.

Completed mural view 1.

Completed mural view 2.

Students "Address the Earth" through Art

photo from Sauk Valley News
Reagan Middle School students gather around an etched copper panel that will be put on display in the school. Each plaque was designed and etched by the student through the help of local artist Mike Mcnamara and teacher Debbie Thompson. (Alex T. Paschal/photo)

My two friends were in the paper again with their work with students and art-- Debbie Thompson and Mike McNamara! The unveiling of the copper piece was yesterday, Friday at Reagan Middle School in Dixon.

Since Jack (my boss) and I had a prior business commitment at the same time in another town, I wasn't able to personally attend the unveiling ceremony. Luckily, we were able to stop by Debbie's classroom earlier to take a sneak peak and to take some close-up pics of the individual pieces (those will be published later). She had it hidden from the kids by putting in her classroom bathroom. She rushed me into the john (so I can take a few pictures) because she didn't want the kids to see the assembled piece until the unveiling.

Read below the newspaper's account of the event.

DIXON -- It's earth-friendly artwork made from scratch, and on recyclable material to boot.

"Students Address the Earth" features more than 120 3-by-5-inch copper sheets, each with an eco-themed etching done by a student.

Reagan Middle School art teacher Debbie Thompson held an unveiling ceremony Friday for the 100-pound piece, which will be displayed near the school's cafeteria entrance.

Students used permanent marker to make a drawing on the sheet, and guest artist/sculptor Michael McNamara of Dixon dipped the pieces in ferric chloride, which eroded part of the copper, leaving the hand-drawn designs slightly raised.

Images of pandas, hands and stars dot the copper landscape, forming a shiny metal patchwork.

Fifth-grader Jessie Scheck, 11, drew mountains, trees and grass on his copper piece. He said he had never worked with the material before, and that it was a lot of fun.

The project was part of Thompson's yearly guest artist program for her fifth- and sixth-grade art students. Most of the materials and McNamara's expertise were paid for with a grant from a private foundation.

"We wanted to do a group project with students dealing with the environment, to teach them what their part might be in recycling," McNamara said.

Kreider Services staff also gave a presentation on its recycling facility.

Kreider trains disabled adults and teaches them job skills.

Jul Adams-Watkins, the nonprofit's public relations coordinator, explained how they collect recyclable materials from local businesses, which they process and sell.

"It's not just a commercial situation," Adams-Watkins said. Recycling "is a personal decision."

Reach Malinda Osborne at 815-625-3600 or 800-798-4085, ext. 526.

Magical Trees and Gardening

A couple of the finished "magical trees."

I misnamed the tree mural we were working on last Friday. They are called "Magical Trees," not "Happy Trees."

So anyway...last Friday afternoon, around 10 talented young ladies helped Debbie, Arin, and I paint the tree drawings done by Debbie's students. Debbie and I sketched them out the day before.

Once we got the tarps down, paints doled out, and instructions given, the kids went straight to work. Most of them were a riot. Girls are talky, talky creatures and boy, when they start raising their voices in a cement stairwell, it causes ringing in the ears!

We always keep the color black out of any kids' hands. Children seem to love to overdo black or mix it in every color, thus making a muddy mess. This little rule does have an advantage also. "Well, how do I make this purple darker, etc.," kind of questions give us the chance to teach them how to mix complimentary colors and such to get a much more desirable dark of any hue they are working with.

More trees.

They tend to remember this too. Don't know why...but they do.

We finished up around 4:00. That's when their rides came to pick them up at the hospital.

After the kids left, Debbie, Arin, and I did some highlighting and outlining of each of the trees...a final polishing touch. Then we were off to Debbie's veranda for a couple of cold ones and some Thai and sushi.

Sunday, after the last of our inn guests checked out, Jeff and I headed outside to start (finally) on some of our flower beds. The weather and timing have been working against us this year. So, on this day, it was sunny and just the right temperature for busting our butts weeding, splitting over grown perennials, and composting. I think it got to around 70 degrees. After around 7 hours of that nonsense, Jeff got to burn stuff (his favorite thing) and I made a big old fat pizza.

So, we finished 3 long flowerbeds by the restaurant. We have another 12 or 13 to go. Groannnn.

Today, we worked on the 2 big beds in front of the inn. That wild ginger is a curse. It can't be pulled out, but has to be dug up and they are all intertwined with some of the perennials. Curses. Only lasted a few hours today.

Got another special bonus from upper-butt area got good and sunburned. The only place I didn't put sunblock. You know the area, between the bottom of your shirt and the top of your pants.

After that, I thought a visit to my studio and doing some varnishing of some of the finished paintings lying around was in order.

Tomorrow is the Spring Luncheon for the Phidian Art Club. It also is the awards ceremony for the Literary Competition that takes place each year. I am the chair of this year's competition and will have to speak at this thingy. I'd rather get teeth pulled than speaking in public. But, the women on this committee with me are the best and we have a great time together. So, we're all taking turns doing some of the speaking and presenting.

Another good thing....I get to wear one of my new spring dresses. It's so girly and cute.

Until later.


Grist Mill illustration

Franklin Grove Grist Mill: illustration for Lee County Courthouse

I meant to post the illustration above earlier, but my meeting last evening ran long. Actually, it probably ran the right length of time, but when one of our committee members mentioned she wanted to be home in time for "Boston Legal," there was a general concurrence among all of us that this is one great show.

So, we happened to have a bottle of cabernet available and our lovely hostess made some popcorn. All in all...a lovely impromptu evening. Boston Legal was great too.

The Lee County Courthouse mural is in the final stages of organizing and getting grants and such. So, before we get our hands dirty with that one, Debbie, Arin, and I are undertaking a volunteer project with some of her middle school students.

A few of the students "happy trees" paintings spread over my office floor.

KSB Hospital has asked us and the students again (for the 4th time!) to continue a new set of paintings in one of their stairwells. We already have done two sets in this particular stairwell. The intention is to provide incentive for their employees to take the stairs instead of the elevators.

This year's murals will be inspired by the kids' paintings of fanciful "happy" trees. Debbie came by my office late morning today to help her pick out the most expressive trees. This afternoon, I'll be joining her in the hospital's stairwell to draw them on the walls.

Tomorrow, Debbie's daughter Arin, will join us along with several students to get these puppies painted! We'll get this done in a day...a long day, but still just a day.

Until later...


Guest Artist Program -- Day 3

Student getting expert instruction from art teacher, Debbie Thompson.

Wooo hoooo! The paintings are signed, brushes cleaned and paper palettes thrown out. Canvases are everywhere (almost 150 of them).

Today was the easiest and most relaxed of the project. Mostly because the kids were very used to the system and we just really needed to do some minor detail work and sign the paintings. I have the kids just initial the paintings because, as most kids do, if they signed their whole name, most of them would use most of the lower half of the canvas to accomplish this task. So, we did the 3 initial system. Only one child signed it kind of in the middle. I just looked away and kept my mouth shut. heh

Wrapping those stripes around the canvas sides.

They really accomplished a lot for 11-12 year olds. Each class is around 42 minutes, then subtract initial set up, teacher talk, artist talk, paint .... paint .... paint....questions...answers, refill paints, paint... paint...clean your brushes...empty your water, clean your space...bell rings AND OFF THEY GO.

Another honor awaits some of the young artists. Five to six paintings will be selected from each class to be displayed at The Next Picture Show gallery in Dixon. The gallery has a lower level that showcases student artwork throughout the 4 county area. When the gallery has an opening (juried adult art exhibitions) every 6 weeks or so, the student gallery also has their opening to the public. This brings in the students' family and friends who might otherwise not ever come into the gallery. It becomes a way of life to the general public.

Just adding her intials!

I believe the next opening is next Friday, (Oct. 19) for the Color Shots 2 (a color photography show). It will be fun.

The local paper sent a photographer and reporter today to interview the kids. Thanks for stopping by Melinda and Alex.

Well, it's time to get ready for the Y. I'm kinda beat and would like to skip this part of the evening, but a good set of crunches never hurt anyone, right?

Almost finished with the last minute touches.

Line up of artists and canvases.

These are my "as finished as they can be" demo paintings.

Guest Artist Program -- Day 2

Two down, one to go! Enjoy the pics of the classes below.

After finishing up yesterday, I was really pooped. When I got home around 3 p.m., I did some minor (and I mean minor) housework, online banking, emails, updated this blog, and then did some serious talking to myself about making sure I went to the Y for my workout. I view workouts like a visit to the dentist. Never, ever look forward to it, but feel good once it's over with. Also, Debbie is a Y fanatic and she would be just as tired or more after today's art challenge!

So what's my excuse, right?

Well, Jeff wanted me to pick up an Italian beef for him and Gyro for me at Benny's in Dixon after my workout. Which is VERY conveniently located across for the Y (and McDonald's come to think of it). It's a freakin' conspirancy. So, I figure it's better to eat that kind of stuff AFTER a workout.

Okay, okay....on to DAY 2 with the kids.

A row of paintings of the still life with Anaheim peppers.

The second day is always a bit easier than the first. For one thing, both the kids and myself are more comfortable and familiar with each other. Second, they have picked up some skills, like handling a brush, mixing paint and overcoming the fear of covering a canvas quickly. Which is what we need to do with so little time between classes.

I came in just 15 minutes earlier to help Debbie get the paint palettes loaded for the kids. It's just 15 minutes, but it sure makes a difference. We even had time for a cup of tea! How civilized.

The first day, we only had ONE absence out of 6 classes (and that was after 4 days off for these kids--Columbus Day). Today, almost each class had an absence. Weird, huh? The weather has really cooled also. Monday it was 88 degrees, today it topped out at 54. Kids get sick so a bunch of them had on shorts, tshirts, and flip flops.

But, I digress.

5 of the 6 paintings that I started the demo's with after one day. Hard to do a lot and teach at the same time. That's really, really hard.

Today was also extra special because Debbie's daughter, Arin (beautiful, brilliant, an artist in both the visual and writing arts) stopped by after lunch to just sit and paint along with the kids. Nice to have another adult...sometimes it feels like it's us against them just by sheer numbers!

The second day on the Oranges on blue-dotted cloth. Kinda fun.

Later, Jenny Bubrick (sp?) a friend, substitute teacher, and quick wit stopped by to help Debbie and I with refilling palettes, cleaning brushes, assisting in the shhhushing, etc. By the end of the day, we were all getting a bit punchy and little comments & jokes, puns (whatever) started to fly amongst all of us, just to see if any of the kids got it. Ninety-nine percent of it flew over their heads (we could tell by the way were met with complete silence) and it just made us laugh even harder. We were getting so goofy.

Cut Apples on Striped (soon to be ) Cloth, 2nd day

In each class, we got to about 75 percent completion. Which is good, because we have to be done by tomorrow. We started putting in the darkest darks and the lightest lights and the kids were amazed when some of their paintings started looking like what they were actually painting!

That is such a cool thing.

Paint mixing...and getting those apples just right.

Time out for middle school silliness!

An updated shot of my work on the second day.

2nd day of the kids' work. Some started adding their stripes. Love the abstractness of it.

Last class of day 2...discussing technique. I hope.

Pears all lined up at the end of the day.

Childrens' Guest Artist Program -- Day 1

Today was the first day of the 3-day "Guest Artist" program at Reagan Middle School in Dixon, Illinois. This is my 3rd year doing the painting program. We are doing fun fruit/vegetable still lifes. There are 6 classes of kids every day doing 6 paintings.

The first day of painting for each class was blocking in the painting by starting the background first and maybe some shadow blocking in. If the class was a quieter class, we moved on to starting the actual fruit/vegetable. Boy, does listening make a world of difference. Kids that talk too much, or daydream a bit are a lot farther behind. AND if the class has more of the chatty Kathys than the quieter ones, the whole class stays behind.

Debbie Thompson is their teacher (and my best friend). She has the patience of a saint. We've done this so often, that we have a real system down now.

I'll post more as the week goes on. I started out taking pictures, but as the day wore on, with all the brush cleaning, palette reloading, and spill clean ups, I forgot about grabbing a camera.

Stay tuned for more kid art this week.

Painting, Demo's, Classes....

"Autumn Layers"
24" x 30" oil on gessobord

Got in my studio a bit earlier than I normally do on a Monday. That's because my butt is behind the eight ball on several projects coming up. So, the painting above was completed first. I hung it in the hall outside my studio and it looks like it always belonged there. Until I sell it!

On Wednesday, 10/3, I am speaking and demonstrating for an artists' group in Oregon, Illinois. I've picked to demo in acrylics because I can probably finish it in the one sitting. It will be a fun simple fruit still life. I went to (sorry) Walmart yesterday to pick up some fun fabrics and fruit for a bunch of still lifes. The demo still life will also be one of 5 that will be used next week for the "Guest Artist" program at Reagan Middle School in Dixon. Each class of kids will be doing one of them. So the still life will be doing double duty! This is just sketched and underpainted to get a head start.

Just below are two stages of the next landscape. It will also be an oil on gessobord, same size. The subject is a waterway (Pine Creek), with some Angus cows at dusk. I got pretty far along before I realized that I was hungry. Supper awaits! Homemade garlic mashed potatoes, Swiss steak, and biscuits. How's that for a fall supper?

You'll have to wait for my cows to appear more fully. Until next...

Teaching is an art in its self

Every week dawns with me thinking that once I get through this week, next week won't be as busy. And you know what, every week is as busy as the next. It's time to start living each day instead of wishing my life away!

Last week, I was the 6th art instructor at The Next Picture Show's 6x6x6 Art Camp for kids. I had between 8-10 kids from ages 10-13, kind of like a one room school house sort of thing. There were 4 boys this year....up from one last year. They didn't seem to mind doing closeups of zinnias. On the second day, when they finished early, they did a "free paint" which brought on dinosaurs and robots!

During the first day's class, a painting customer of mine stopped by to pickup and pay for all 4 of my 12" x 12" oils (apples/barns). The kids looked perfectly bored with me at the start of the class, but I showed them what can happen when you pay attention and practice...I flashed the check for the paintings at them and you'd think I was a rock star!

The class itself took on a life of its own. After we got the flower sketched out the first thing every single one of them asked if they could paint them different colors. Why not? So, I just helped them with how to handle a brush, mix complimentary colors for proper shadows, and how to CLEAN their brushes correctly. No black was allowed to be used. Kids, boys especially, love to put black in everything and turn a painting into a muddy mess!

By the end of the 2nd day, they all had some nice paintings. When they were all lined up to dry, they kind of looked like a quilt!

Also, last week on Wednesday (between the two classes) Debbie and I went to Chicago to meet up with my youngest daughter, Morgan, to look at apartments with her. Her lease is up on 7/31 and she waited this long to do some real looking. No stress there. As soon as I got to her place, I gave her the keys and she drove us all around. She was really interested in the Pilson neighborhood, a mostly hispanic, blue color neighborhood. The area has undergone a renaissance of sorts, but is still very ethnic with lots of little kids, families, colorful murals, etc. Also the rents are cheaper. One reason the rents were so cheap is that they didn't have refrigerators! Deal breaker. We didn't find anything to put a deposit on, but we met up later with Debbie's son, Chris, and his friends at the Shedd Aquarium and went to little Italy (a block and a half from Morgan's) for a great dinner outside at Rosebud's on Taylor.

Chicago is the best big city ever. It's gorgeous, diverse, and plain good ole' fun.

Today, once I get my butt away from this computer, I'm going to finish my copper still life and get ready to go help work on ANOTHER project. Debbie, her daughter Arin, and I are starting drawing/painting instruction with 6 kids at the probation office. They are all to design and paint a tree to be incorporated into a 10' H x 20' W mural outside of the Lee County Probation office. Hopefully, all will go well.

Jeff just left to go to Chicago to pick Morgan up. She's moving home for a month. The apartment we did find last Wed. wasn't available until 9/1. So, for one month she will live here, work in our restaurant and save some money. Guess I better pick up some groceries. Morgan, God love her, is a great eater.

Well, this turned out to be a novel. Time to paint.

Still Life with Copper

I got back to a still life of a copper bowl with apples and asparagus on a silver tray that was started a couple of weeks ago.

The picture below is the 2nd day's work. One more day, about an hour, will do it. It got a bit wet and I got tired of looking at I'm still dragging my butt like an alligator from whatever ailment I picked up last week. Don't get me wrong...I feel MUCH better, just a tad punky...can't explain it exactly.

I am a fan of Tracy Helgeson's work and read her blog almost every day. We definitely have different styles, but she has been very forthcoming in her painting techniques whenever anyone asks her about them. Be sure to check out her blog soon! The reason I mention Tracy is that she told me that to finish her oils quickly and then send them to her various galleries, she uses Liquin as a medium with her oils. It makes the paint a bit translucent, very spreadable, and helps the paint dry much more quickly. the 2nd picture I gave Liquin a try. Oh...she also mentioned that Liquin gives the paint a nice even sheen, making it possible to not have to varnish! Now, that is a time saver!

Well, I just fed my dog, Annie, and now I must start getting prepared for a children's acrylic painting class Tuesday and Thursday. It starts at 9 a.m. for 2 hours. Not bad. The last I heard there will be 8 kids. Hopefully, I'll have enough paint and supplies. I took some pics of my zinnias to do large simple closeup paintings of. Three of the choices are just below.

Weird week

"Peonies Showing Off"
20" x 16", oil on board

You know what happens when you burn the candle at both ends for too long? The aching flu happens, that's what! Sunday night was the crash and burn night and I've been battling since then. I did manage to finish the Peony painting above on Monday. Turned out better than I thought it would. The background has a lot of gloss in it, so taking the picture was a real challenge. I was going to start on the second still life that was started last week, but my medication wore off and I got too pooped to pop!

My friend, Debbie, also came down with the same illness ... we burned that same candle together....but she added another illness on top of it -- LYME DISEASE. She has always been an overachiever. She called me yesterday and is finally feeling better. Good thing. The entire town of Dixon, Illinois is probably wondering where in the heck are the Dynamic Duo!

Next week I am scheduled to teach a children's art class for two days and I just finally decided on what to do with them. My gardens this year are really looking great. We've had a good rainy summer (so far) and my tall garden zinnias are the brightest fuschias, oranges, magentas, and pinks. I think we'll do close-ups of the flower heads in acrylics.

The week after that Debbie, her daughter Arin, and I will be starting a 10' H x 20' W mural with 6 teenagers from the probation services. The Lee County Probation office picked the kids that would seem a good fit for this kind of project. It will take care of their public service. It's the first time anything like this has been done and so we are all very excited, but kind of nervous at the same time.

Our subject is going to be trees. Not a typical boring landscape, but each kid's interpretation of a tree. In earlier posts, Debbie and I did murals with her art students at the local hospital. This spring we finished our 3rd one. They were all kids' interpretations of: happy houses, cats, then dogs.

We will take their paintings a tree and put it into an interesting composition and then sketch it out on the wall and everyone will work on painting their trees on the wall. They'll each help each other and learn something. I will be starting a new blog just for this project. Arin is a wonderful writer also and she will be journeling this whole process. It really is cool. Keep an eye out for the new blog address. I have to see if I want to use wordpress or blogger. Wordpress has much nicer templates, but we'll see.

Until later.

Off to Chicago today

We arrived back to Illinois Sunday afternoon. Luckily the weather warmed up quite a bit since we had left for Savannah the week before. Today it's going to be 70!

Today I am going to Chicago's Art Institute with my art teacher friend, Debbie. One of her students, Jacob, won the Illinois State Art Poster contest with a piece of work that was done in Debbie's class. This is the SECOND time one Debbie's kids have won this state award.

Tomorrow, I will be getting back to my easel. I've been itchy to be creative.

Got a call today from an organization wanting me to donate one of my paintings to their art sale fundraiser. How do many of you (artists) feel about this? I have no problem donating to causes I feel personally attached to, but at times some of these organizations treat the artist (unknowingly, of course) as a free meal ticket. I haven't donated to these folks before, but know of them well. A couple of my artist peers have had problems with this organization when their work didn't meet the minimum. They (the artists) wanted there art back since it didn't sell. Both of them were told that since they "donated" it, the art was now theirs. One of the artists said that she just wanted to keep it safe and, if she didn't sell it within the year, would gladly donate it again next year. If it did sell, she would donate another piece. Also, many of these organizations don't tell you how much your work went for or who it went to.

I feel bad saying I probably will cave in, but with the stipulation that if it doesn't sell, I get it back. He's going to check into it. hmmm

Paul Dorrell had a great article on this same subject.

Almost done...mural starting now.

I had a couple of hours to work on my human study today. Wish I had one hour more, but I had to get to Dixon to pick up Debbie and go to KSB Hospital to start our 3rd, count 'em, 3rd, mural on one of their stair wells. We do this with several of her art students. Fun. Today we sketched out several of her kids' paintings. The subject is Funny dogs, Happy Victorian Houses, and Crazy Cats.

We picked around 10 to work from and sketched them on the walls. The walls are cement block and kind of hard to paint on, but we've done it twice before....we can do it again.
Tuesday we'll start the painting in the afternoon. I'll post pics of the sketches tomorrow. My pasta water is boiling and I'm really, really hungry. Just a snack bag of Cheetos this afternoon. Only goes so far!

Silk Screening adventure

Last night, my teacher friend, Debbie, and I had a practice silk screening session in her garage. She is having her art classes do an interesting project between the Dixon Schools and the art gallery, The Next Picture Show, in town. The kids will learn how to do simple silk screen projects on clothing and accessories, then do a fashion show at the gallery on an opening night (for another art show) in February!

Since neither of us had done silk screening in maybe over 30 years, we thought it wise to practice and see what the pitfalls might be with a bunch of 5th and 6th graders!
Besides the cold temperature in the garage (even with a space heater), we had a good time playing with the ink and figuring out how much to use and how elaborate a design we can get away with for quality prints.

The picture at the top are some of the finished t-shirts. Not bad for a couple of neophytes in silk screening.
Oh, yeah, Debbie sent a call out to other schools outside of Dixon for the use of any silk screens, brayers, etc., and you should have seen the immediate response of other art teachers willing to loan equipment and even delivering them for this project. Thank you everyone!