On Sunday, I Received Two Gifts

Yesterday morning I was speaking with Dad and he was describing what he was seeing out his computer room window…how golden the oak tree was in the morning light. I’ve spent a lot of time at that window and found myself imagining the autumn oak trees because they are such giants and so glorious in summer.  I asked if he would snap a photo and he sent me this.  Such a beautiful photograph!  Isn’t it a beautiful thing that the technology that we enjoy today allows us such communication between ourselves and our loved ones?

Photo Credit: John Moors

Photo Credit: John Moors

Happenstance?  A short time before I found Dad’s photograph in my electronic mail, I also received a photograph from my brother.  He had gone to Beechwood Cemetery, in Ottawa, to visit Mom and gather up some photographs in evening light.  When I saw this, I knew that Mom would absolutely be in love with the peacefulness, the light and the colours.  Thank you, Stuart!  Your work gives me chills; it’s so inspiring.

Photo Credit: Stuart Moors

Photo Credit: Stuart Moors

Autumn is my favourite season of the year.  I will treasure these two gifts from special men in my life!  I know that yesterday, after weeks and weeks of social media blah blah, the Federal Election was the focus of the day, but for me, as usual, the simple things…nature…family…the freedom and beauty I have to enjoy were at the forefront of my thoughts.  I’m grateful for Democracy…I’m grateful for the ability to choose.  I grateful for seasons such as this.

More Contours: Pumpkins!

Okay…it’s mid October!  There is no way that teachers can avoid pumping the kids up with pumpkins OR the holiday of Halloween.  Since elementary art lessons have always seemed to be driven by the festivities and celebrations and seasons that take place throughout the year, it’s important to continue to embed the teaching of art skills at the very same time.

I’ve decided to take the idea I explored a short time ago, the contoured autumn leaves…

Kath's Canon October 9, 2015 Contoured Leaves Elementary Art 031Kath's Canon October 9, 2015 Contoured Leaves Elementary Art 017…and to teach the grade three students how to contour a pumpkin.  When the oil pastels are getting low in your school, try these sorts of activities with materials such as conte or as I found stashed in the storage room, chalk pastels, in order to teach some shading and high lighting.  Afterwards, this medium requires a light spraying of hair spray (once the students have gone for the afternoon) to set the chalk.

We began by looking at this contoured sketch of a pumpkin.  What do you see? What do you notice?  Where is the window?  What is shadow.  Why is there a shadow?

cross contour pumpkinNext, the students began sketching pumpkins in their visual journals with pencils…no erasers… begin again and again and again.  I spoke to them about practice and the idea behind sketching and making studies.  It was at this time that I played a Youtube video showing the basic structures of pumpkins and how to contour them.  They could sketch while they watched or sketch after watching.  It was up to them.  I also did my own exemplars on the white board, showing the students that some pumpkins are very tall and others are more wide and round, but they are built of the same parts.

For the composition portion of the afternoon, the visual journals were stashed away and, emphasizing scale again,  I gave the students 18 x 24 inch construction paper in orange.  I always encourage such activities be done on construction paper because of the tooth.

The students were given a light, medium and dark value within the warm colour family and away they went to the races, contouring each ‘segment’ of the pumpkin by using their darkest value for the chalked lines, then medium, and then highlight at the center of each segment.  While tissue was made available for blending, I found that given the softness of the media, the beautiful marks and lines disappeared from the children’s work, so I asked them to try to preserve those marks and avoid blending.

A blue or purple chalk was given to each student for emphasis, as a very last step before cutting the beautiful creations out.

A wonderful and attentive class!  Thanks, Jenn!

Kath's Canon, October 14, 2015 Grade three pumpkins 005 Kath's Canon, October 14, 2015 Grade three pumpkins 001 Kath's Canon, October 14, 2015 Grade three pumpkins 003 Kath's Canon, October 14, 2015 Grade three pumpkins 004

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An Unusual Book: A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

I realize that I wouldn’t be very good as a book reviewer…I read lots, but move on to the next book, without archive or recommendation.  But, I have to take pause with this one.

Mark Haddon, himself, warns his readers against using his popular novel, The Curious Incident With a Dog in the Night-time as a textbook about any particular state of being on the spectrum.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, for its innovative use of text and for its heart warming story.  Christopher John Francis Boone is an engaging character, the first of his sort that I’ve met in literature.  I read this book some time ago and over the past months encountered ‘A Spot of Bother’ by the same author in a second hand book store and so picked it up.

I am sitting here chuckling as I type.  The book has such a refreshing angle and similar to ‘The Curious Incident With a Dog in the Night-time’, much of the intrigue revolves around the development of a very unusual character, in this case, George Hall, the patriarch of a fabulously discordant family.  What is it about laughter at the expense of these fictional characters?  I gauge the success of a book these days, based on my reactions to the believable foibles of invented characters.  George is so unreasonable.  I find myself laughing at him until that inevitable moment when my relationship to him and the events of the narrative cause me to do a 180 and cry for the sad state of his situation.

I’d love to know what you think of this one.  I think that Mark Haddon is an especially gifted writer.

Impeccable description.  A connection of the most impossible-to-connect states of mind and experience.  Fabulous!

A Spot of Bother

This One’s For You

Another Thanksgiving fast-approaches.  All of the things that you loved in life happen and are shared.  Food and drink and lively conversations are exchanged between your family members.  We always felt the closest during holidays and even your kids, like me, who live far away, we find a way to connect with one another via very long and strong heart strings.  Phone calls are exchanged and now days, the Skype lines are fired up.  Some how, we all find ways to connect.  Since you’ve left us, it’s more tricky to get close to you, but you remain in our conversations, in our silences and in one another.  We remember so many large and wonderful Thanksgivings with you…we remember your preparation of generous meals, served with so much love.  If conversations became too lively and loud, as they will this Thanksgiving weekend before our Federal Election, you would try to shushhh some of us, get us to settle down, get us to ‘be nice to one another’.  Mom, things weren’t always perfect with us.  It would be unfair to both of us to fib about this.  Instead, just know that my love for you has never stopped growing, just because you are no longer with me in this earthly sense.  My love grows.  And, you grow in me.  I watch my own children, now adults, create successes and experience losses…and I remember all that you did for and with me.  I’m grateful for your lessons.  In all of your imperfections and perfection, I treasure you and just wanted to tell you tonight that I miss you and love you.

On Thanksgiving, love from your daughter.

Kath and Mom on Christmas Day

October Cross Contours

Today with grade fours, I took the cross contour ‘hand’ project that we see throughout our elementary schools and explored it, with a twist.

cross contour 1I’ve seen project-based art lessons thoroughly investigate the ‘traced hand’ out there in the field at many different grade levels, the following being tackled at a higher level.

cross_contour_hands_by_mica08-d4pl2p8The following examples involved concentric lines and a single geometric/amorphic shape overlapping those lines.  They also involve a cool colour scheme in contrast with a warm colour scheme.

elementary hand 5 elementary hand 4 elementary hand 3 elementary hand 2 elementary handBack to this October’s lesson….I first spoke to the students about cross contour drawing and used a couple of little Youtube videos to inspire.

I showed them a couple of super cool images that had been created by other artists.

cross contour dark holecross contour 3Another cross contour activity that can easily be tackled by grades 4, 5 and 6 students is the worm hole in oil pastel.  The how-to instructions can be found here.

Worm Hole Cross Contour October 2014While I noticed I did not save any archives of individual projects that I had done with students, I did find this collaborative figurative piece that my students had created on white mural paper, outside of my classroom, some years ago.

Cross Contour FiguresBack to the events yesterday, I first spoke to the students about creating a template of a flat figure of the human body.  We did this on manila tag,  filling the sheet from top to bottom.  I demonstrated simplistic shapes to represent both the hands and feet, likened to mittens.

See the exemplar here.

Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 003

Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 007The students then cut out their flat figures and, using them as stencils, traced around them onto a large sheet of paper.  These can be as large or as small as you like.  After a demonstration at the front of the class, the students were on their way.  I spoke to them, using the term ‘cross contour lines’ as often as I could.  Begin on the edge of the orange paper and draw a relatively straight line until you arrive at a pencil contour line, them BUMP to the next contour line.  Draw a straight line until you meet the next contour line and then BUMP.  And so on it goes.  With elementary students, the term BUMP seems to have meaning.  You can assist by mentioning that their bumps are not tall enough, when the cross contour flattens out to much.  See what emerges.  The students think that the mummy-sort of images are ‘cool’.

To be honest, some students are going to struggle with this, so modify with a smaller composition if this becomes evident or provide them with an alternative like the traced hand or a circle drawn in chalk on the paper.  It is best that every teacher try out this process on their own first, like always, so that they understand the process and can best communicate the process.  Have Halloween fun!

Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 004 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 020 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 005 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 006 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 008 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 009 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 010 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 011 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 012 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 013 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 014 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 016 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 017 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 018 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 019I typically like to put on music, but had forgotten.  Here’s what I had selected.

Contouring Autumn Leaves With Colour

I just pulled this one together quickly for grade fours yesterday afternoon.  I know that there is a plethora of autumn leaf activities out there during these months, and judging by the wind and cold weather in Calgary, those leaves are not going to be around for much longer!

I decided to add some colour to the otherwise, grey weather to come on the weekend, and show the students how to contour…create the hills and valleys that are in every subject we attempt to render in art.  The basic concept is that the top of a fold of fabric reflects the greatest amount of light, so it needs to be coloured with the lightest hues.  The valleys of the fold, hidden from the light, would sit in the darkest range of the same hue.  Similarly, when rendering a face, the creases would be the darkest and the bridge of the nose and the forehead would be the lightest…and so on it goes.

I gave the students some of these examples and then went about talking about the structure of the leaf (new words included the word ‘serrated’ edge) and that vein to vein, we see the same sort of lighting if we really look.  While our contouring would be an exaggeration of this, using white oil pastel for the lightest highlights…the students would see that their leaves would have more dimension than usual if they followed the light to dark formula.  I like how unique each of these leaves became through the difference in student mark making and based on the variety of original depictions.

First, my consistent approach…give the students chalk to draw with on construction paper, in this case, half a sheet of pink or yellow or orange or red.  This provides a variety of grounds and tooth as a receptor to the oil pastels.

Kath's Canon October 9, 2015 Contoured Leaves Elementary Art 021A chalk dot is made on each of the four compass points on the construction paper in order to set out the scale.  Ask the students to create a leaf that reaches each of the compass points.

Describe the veins as organic.  Rulers, erasers and pencils, not required.  Each and every vein is different.

Once the chalk depiction is there before them, review that the veins of the leaf, if in valleys, would be darkest.  Two palette choices were outlined on the board.

#1 White Yellow Orange, Red, Violet

#2 White Yellow Light Green Dark Green, Blue

By providing these choices, the students do not have to do too much investigation in those huge boxes of oil pastels.

Kath's Canon October 9, 2015 Contoured Leaves Elementary Art 022Some students will need some guidance one-on-one once the activity part of this class begins.  Sit with them and walk them through it.  Do one of your own in front of them, encouraging them to apply the oil pastels with a side to side motion rather than a long up and down motion.

Kath's Canon October 9, 2015 Contoured Leaves Elementary Art 025Resulting projects were beautiful!  Thank you, for your class, MJ.

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Life is a Feast

I was included into a circle of friendship some time in 2002 and I’ve relished every opportunity to share moments of laughter and conversation with this circle since. I’ve recently organized my photo albums and woven throughout the pages are amazing sights we’ve shared; early spring wildflower walking, hiking, hot tubs and teaching detox sessions of every sort.  I feel so grateful as I think about our journey.  This photo…an early scanned archive from 2003, hiking Elbow Lake and Rae Glacier.

Ya yas Rae Glacier

Copy of My Ya Yas Hiking Ya Yas 2007Because I recently enjoyed another remarkable feast with these friends, I wanted to plunk a post here, in recognition of time well-spent and good food shared.

P1080731 P1080721 P1080718Darren, Wendy’s husband, is the primary chef at these feasts, although Rebecca and Wendy get their fingers into the process where and when they can.  Here’s a sampling of the treats that have been served us…this dinner, in 2002.

Dinner With the Ya Yas

And most recently, on the menu!

Butternut squash soup with a parmesan crostini with sage leaf.
Roasted peppers and fennel with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.
Roast pork loin with pork gravy and raspberry reduction.
Potatoes poached in cream and dill.
All followed with coconut cream pie
Kath's Canon, September 27, 2015 Wendy and Darren Dinner, Eclips 001 Kath's Canon, September 27, 2015 Wendy and Darren Dinner, Eclips 002 Kath's Canon, September 27, 2015 Wendy and Darren Dinner, Eclips 004 Kath's Canon, September 27, 2015 Wendy and Darren Dinner, Eclips 005 Kath's Canon, September 27, 2015 Wendy and Darren Dinner, Eclips 006 Kath's Canon, September 27, 2015 Wendy and Darren Dinner, Eclips 008

Delish! With gratitude always, to friends who are in our lives through all sorts of times and all sorts of food!

Although the clouds were close to the horizon for the blood moon and the eclipse, I caught the last minutes out my own window once I arrived home. A beautiful night, shared with people I love.

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Rumble House: September 30, 2015

I sat in City Hall for much of yesterday afternoon in order to get a Building Permit.  Then, I crawled home on Deerfoot Trail because of an accident somewhere near Anderson.  Max and I did a quick neighbourhood walk and then, crackers and cheese in tow, I headed back down to the core for the Rumble.

It’s nice when you just ease into ‘the house’.  I had been looking forward to painting my great blue whale and buoy throughout the week.  The image has been alive in me and the outcome of this remarkable animal, caught in a web of fish net out at sea, has been concerning. The story, as covered by the news, has just dissipated with the calling off of the search.

It was a peaceful evening, painting.  The gathering was small, but productive.  One of the inspiring pieces was a poem from Maya Angelou, titled Old Folks Laugh.

Old Folks Laugh

They have spent their
content of simpering,
holding their lips this
and that way, winding
the lines between
their brows. Old folks
allow their bellies to jiggle like slow
tambourines.
The hollers
rise up and spill
over any way they want.
When old folks laugh, they free the world.
They turn slowly, slyly knowing
the best and the worst
of remembering.
Saliva glistens in
the corners of their mouths,
their heads wobble
on brittle necks, but
their laps
are filled with memories.
When old folks laugh, they consider the promise
of dear painless death, and generously
forgive life for happening
to them.

by Maya Angelou

The line that would be incorporated into my piece would be, “When old folks laugh, they free the world.”

We can’t see beneath the surface of the beautiful and endless oceans. We do not take pause and think about the rivers that are constantly finding their way to the sea. A mirror, the water reflects the sky. There is a forever-drift of life beneath the blue. But, we forget. In all of our wild consumption and progress, we do not remember the life that gasps for breath, but is hidden from us.

Last night, I wanted to meditate and to remember. Thanks to Benjamin who purchased this piece at auction.

Photo Credit: Michael Collett

Photo Credit: Michael Collett

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