October 24, 2013

Workshop with Timothy Botts

Exercise in contrast on dark paper -- artwork by Tim Botts
One of the many perks of my move to upstate New York is easy access to art classes in NYC.  As a member of the Society of Scribes, I now can participate in workshops led by internationally recognized artists in the calligraphic arts.  A beautiful train ride alongside the Hudson River takes me from Albany to Manhattan's Penn Station, and a subway takes me to the School of Visual Arts on 21st and 3rd. I have made the trip alone a few times now, and I am happy to report that during my most recent trip I did not even cry [out loud] when I got lost.  I was there for a two-day workshop led by Timothy Botts on creating word pictures through expressive lettering and layering, and it was worth every mode of transportation it took to get there. (Follow the link to see more of his extraordinary artwork.)

I think what impressed me the most was Tim's respect for language. Whether through speaking it out loud, miming, thoughtful reflection on meanings and sounds, dramatic interpretations of phrases (though he denies any acting talent!), or subjective recollections of how he has personally experienced a particular word -- he gives each word its due.  There was no hasty "get it down on paper because my extraordinary lettering skills are enough" with him.  The beauty of these workshops is getting to experience an artists' thoughts before any marks are made on paper.  And in this area, Tim was incredibly generous.  Though he called himself shy, he did not hold back on letting us see inside his head and his heart as he approached each quote.  If nothing else, he has inspired me to pause.

We learned about the fickleness of gouache, the flexibility of the flat brush when lettering large, the secret tricks on enhancing (or hiding) elements with collage and stencils. He demonstrated and then challenged us to use techniques like contrast, weight, animation, distortion to emphasize or downplay words that said something we liked or "liked less" about ourselves through a series of exercises.  We learned how to decide when the background should stop and the lettering begin, and how a quote is effectively expressed through both.

Beautiful example of layering, animation, and contrast -- artwork by Tim Botts
All in all, it was a joyful two days of learning because of Tim's positive and gentle demeanor, and because of the playful and supportive camaraderie that is always present when lettering artists get together to learn.

Halloween on the Farm

I hope one of the things my children remember about their childhood is that there was a playfulness to their surroundings.  I want our home to be an honest reflection of the love and laughter that fills it.   And with each season change and new holiday, we get to shake things up and create anew!  Since Halloween is one of our favorites, I thought I'd post a few pics of what is lying around our house this month (pardon the pun). Happy Halloween!
To save time, I got layout ideas from Halloween chalkboards on Pinterest and customized them with my own writing and words to fit our family. This framed board hangs next to our kitchen table and I change the quote monthly. I use chalk markers for the lettering because it gives me a lot more control.

This glass cloche was just begging for a skull.  Looks like a specimen jar. 

My kids are not happy about this one.  I thought it was so funny I just had to do it.  I probably won't repeat it next year because the feedback has been ENTIRELY negative.

Since the gravestone of one of our property's previous owners (1800's) was found in a nearby field, I actually thought twice about adding Roman to our backyard.  A little too close to the truth, if you know what I mean.  But again, I had do it.  My children have come to expect this from me.

This chalkboard is in our entryway.  I tweaked a layout I saw on Pinterest to fit my chalkboard and added some props to make it a little creepier.

I just couldn't end this post without a few shots of our property.  It is such a gift to live in this part of the country in the Fall!

Happy Haunting!

September 1, 2013

Sermon in the School Supplies

WARNING:  Long Post Ahead

I wonder how many teaching moments I have missed on ordinary days because of walking with my eyes closed.  Because the second I open them, bam, I get schooled. I can't even imagine how different my life would be if I put as much effort into "attentiveness" as I do "producing."  Here is one tiny example in the middle of the secular practice of school supply shopping.  I just happened to have my eyes open because of a book I am in the middle of that is moving me to new places in prayer.

I did not start this day in prayer unfortunately.  I had prepared myself for the stress of school shopping with nothing other than a time limit -- one of the most non-helpful things you can bring to an event like this.  Everything got to me -- the disorganized lists (INEFFICIENCY), the items I knew they would never use (WASTE), the complaints about inadequate binders (ENTITLEMENT), the cries for more (GREED), the fighting between them as we shopped (INGRATITUDE).  I even bought my children slushies to set a playful tone (DESPERATION) but found myself complaining about the slurping five minutes in.  Clearly the problem was me.  I should have prayed first.  I needed God to face this task with joy.

But God showed up anyway as we were leaving.  He came in the form of a man, wearing a bow tie in a cream-colored suit, standing in the middle of the school supplies.  Next to his very empty cart, he was studying a spiral notebook with great intensity and much confusion.  Finally, he surrendered and said, "Excuse me, miss, could you tell me if this is a composition notebook?"  It was not.  "And while I have you, do these (colorful) dry erase markers write only in black?"  No they do not.  "Well now, this is quite difficult," he opined to himself.  He was going to be here all day.  With raised eyebrows, the kids and I looked at each other and made the only decision we could. We turned our carts around and took him by the hand (almost) to the real school supply section at the back of the store.  All the while our spirits were lifting.  That's what serving does, doesn't it?

Together we smiled and helped and related to this stranger in the bow tie.  With his list in our hands, we efficiently made our way through the aisles, filling his cart. We quickly learned that he was buying supplies for disadvantaged kids attending a very special school not too far from us.  I don't know if he'd ever had kids of his own, but this man was clearly a stranger to school supplies.  He was stepping way out of his comfort zone in this act of service and it touched all of us. We felt like little shopping angels sent to help him in his time of need.  All the while he was helping us.  Stand back. Reframe.  See the bigger picture.  Gratitude. I may have even started slurping at that point. But then the real lesson began...

When we took him to the rack of composition notebooks, I quickly handed him ten black ones. My daughter quietly asked him, "Sir, do you think they might want to write in colorful ones?"  "Why, yes!" he responded and let her replace them with her choice.  When I showed him the dividers, I handed him ten sets of economy ones. When I used the word "sufficient," he asked for the more expensive, colorful ones with write-on tabs. (Sydney was rubbing off on him.)  We slowly made our way through his list as he selected the best and most colorful of the choices, regardless of cost, with the faces of the children and the heart of his God in his sight.  And we all got schooled.

My extravagant, extraordinary, generous and loving God lavishes me daily with gifts too numerous to count. He does not stop at "sufficient" when he blesses me.  My cup runneth over and he continues to give.  This precious man with his loving generosity was returning his own blessings to the children he was serving -- extravagantly. My daughter couldn't give without seeing the faces of the children as they excitedly opened their backpacks.  Together they gave more than was expected, more than necessary, more. Let me always remember this day in my own giving. As heir to a generous and extravagant God, my own gifts should be no less extravagant if I want to glorify God in my giving.  The precious lives and the God I serve are worthy of my best service.  Every time.

March 27, 2013

Calligraphy on "Blown" Eggs

There is no limit to what calligraphy can adorn!  With a simple carton of eggs and Sharpie's new brush marker, I now have Easter words like "Hosanna", "forgiven", and "remember me" sitting in the middle of our table.  Thanks to my kids' love for all things slimy, all I had to ask was "who wants to blow out egg guts?" In no time at all I had four dozen beautiful, feather light, perfect mini canvases to work on. This was an easy, inexpensive, handmade family project that makes a great gift for grandparents and friends.  And it's a simple, "write it on your doorposts" (Deuteronomy 6:9)  attempt to keep the truth of God's grace in front of my children during the week leading up to Easter.

My daughter was all over this.
I used distilled white vinegar and food coloring for the dye. Left them in for only a second or two because I wanted a "fresh from the chicken" look. 

I imagine my Zig or Pentel brush markers would have worked just as well, but I wanted to try out the new Sharpie brush marker.  Worked great. 

Have a beautiful weekend with your friends and family.  May the miracle and blessed reassurance of Easter fill your hearts and bring you peace as you celebrate.