As December approaches, many of us have celebrated our Covid birthday celebrations. It was different, wasn’t it? Several of my friends are enjoying really significant birthdays and yet I chose not to celebrate with them, given the risks and the concerns around gatherings. It makes me sad that I am missing them during really special times of their lives, but I am really determined to keep the people I love safe.
Halloween was really different this year. For one, Max wasn’t home with me. I haven’t written his tribute as a post yet because I’m just not ready, but on October 31 of last year, Max reinjured himself for the final time. While he managed for another year, almost, it was a different year for him. It was quiet and his walks were shorter and more thoughtful than ever before. He really struggled through this year, the year of Covid. What I am most grateful for, however, was the fact that I was home with him around the clock and that I shared his last year with him, immersed in love. Snacks were readily available and begging was allowed. I’m sure he found this confusing.
This year, on Halloween night, I headed over to my grandson’s to celebrate ‘revised’ Halloween, where everyone in his neighbourhood was a hero, making fun for children and parents by creating a new normalcy. I was really impressed. This year, three, Steven was going out as Rider of Paw Patrol and so, his Gramma dressed as Chase, one of Rider’s Patrol. We are creating so many memories.
I took some photographs of the magic that was created by my neighbours before heading out for the dress up event shared with my grandson.
Door to door was magical, as so many neighbours made special effort to create magic for the little ones. There were all sorts of contraptions for passing out candy safely and all of this ingenuity contributed to the celebration of the night. I’m grateful that Steven was able to enjoy a night of fun. In the midst of a global pandemic it is really special to make positive memories.
Three Halloween nights with my grandson…this year was so much fun because he actually made the big connection between the act of knocking on the door and enjoying an interaction with the host, as well as gaining a little something in the way of a snack. I am grateful for every bit of fun and laughter we can share.
There was paint left over from yesterday…black and white. I grabbed bright red paper to use as a ground for today’s paintings.
Last evening, my son James came over to the house after work and created a huge bowl of Hummus, using my friend Carla’s recipe. After we had our sit down dinner and the dishes were done, I headed out to drive James home. While we journeyed I asked him what he thought would make a great subject for great three Halloween paintings…witches, cats or bats? His suggestion was ghosts. He rated, by difficulty, the four subjects and in the end, I agreed. 4. Witches 3. Cats 2. Bats 1. Ghosts Ghosts would allow for creative interpretation, free flow, but would help me teach some basic design concepts and techniques.
I knew that I wanted to accomplish some successful design pieces in a very short time, so the focus could not be so much on Reflection and Depiction, but on Composition and Expression.
The class was so intensely involved in the art making that I had to stare in disbelief as it seemed I was in a bee hive. Every student was geared up to accomplish wonderful things and the engagement was other-worldly. It was silent. I felt so happy.
I have a couple of suggestions if my readers were to, at any point, paint ghosts with kids. First of all, have my readers ever had their mother dress them up in a bed sheet as a ghost at any point, for the purpose of trick-o’-treating? Two eyes cut out. No mouth…no nose. It’s tricky to get around! I told the kids the story at the beginning of my lesson and they laughed an laughed. I shared about how hot it was in the inside of the sheet as I breathed in and out, in and out. I told them about tripping as my feet stepped onto the front of the sheet. I explained about the pillow case I was carrying, being difficult to access to collect candy at my neighbour’s doors. I could tell by their faces that they could relate.
I drew a symbol for an octopus on the white board. We thought about how the shape of a ghost symbol would be different. I had them try to picture the sheet over my head. Could they tell where the head was? How? What shape would it be? The shoulders? and then….why would the bottom of the ghost be so organic? We talked about Casper the friendly ghost and the fact that he had legs and arms like we do.
Other words for ghosts that came up…spirits and specter.
Parameters for the composition. Include at least seven ghost-like organic shapes. At least three of these need to go off of an edge. Try to include three larger ghost-forms and the rest, smaller.
I demonstrated how to use a paper towel as a place mat…sliding it along to the place where paint would be applied to an edge. I showed them the difference between painting over an edge and painting up to an edge.
Given a small piece of chalk, the students moved into their composing. I really didn’t want to impose too many restrictions on how they handled their darkness, only saying that I would like to see repeating lines and that the black outline around each specter should not touch the white shrouds. Off to the races!
For the purpose of painting with tempera paints, always have a box of white chalk handy. It takes all of the ‘preciousness’ of drawing away and becomes very free-flowing, with opportunities to change minds several times.
Starting with the dark if the artist finds that all of the buckets of white are gone…
After drying…those little ghost faces were added with sharpies. No noses required. I enjoyed the creative solutions to the dark. A beautiful morning! Deb, thank you for your class!
Something amazing happened. As I stepped into the staff room, at the end of the morning, I learned that employees of UPS were visiting the school and making rounds at other schools, serving special coffees and cupcakes, in order to let educators in the community know how much their work is appreciated. A heart felt message was delivered during the lunch break that left teachers feeling affirmed and happy. It was a lovely gesture and a great end to my morning guest teaching. I had a white chocolate latte. YUM!
While 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.
Back 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.
The 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!
I typically like to put on music, but had forgotten. Here’s what I had selected.
The last few years, the pumpkin has been transformed in ways that it really hadn’t ever been before. I suppose it started with the sale of special carving tools that went beyond the basic carving knife utilized by our parents.
Just yesterday, I saw one of these contemporary carvings posted by friend, arts educator and artist, Jen Dunne, a depiction of Edgar Allan Poe. Absolutely fantabulous! I would guess that the carving happens, much like the process of batik, where you have to think ahead to what general forms you wish to read lightest in value all the way to darkest or black. The light will glow through the various layers revealing a number of glowing orange values/greys….very coolio!
Photo Credit: Jen Dunne
While the Tell Tale Heart is my favourite, Edgar Allan Poe is most known for his poem, The Raven.
Back to pumpkins.
When I was a child, it was Dad who gathered us around the kitchen table for the carving of the jack-o’-lantern. Mom was always busy harvesting items in the house that we could use for our home made costumes. She also salted and placed in the over, a tray of seeds once separated from the heap of yucky pulp.
I’ve carried on the tradition with my children all of these years, but consistently carving the same grinning face that my father carved out for us. I missed my Dad last night…I do every year on Halloween night. He is and will always remain a part of my memory when I light up the candle in my jack-o’-lantern.
I missed this one…spent time with my oldest daughter and her husband, my son and a couple of black cats. There is just something delicious about putting on a show, going into character, scaring the big kids. It looks like it was a great time at the Gorilla House as several people raised the bar and painted in costume. I felt as though I needed to archive the night and goings-on although I didn’t paint.
Mother and Daughter Shot
My son, crashing in front of the Halloween fire place.
Halloween evening…traditionally, a big ‘thing’ for me…loving the ‘characters’coming to my door. Also, this year, I am letting go of an anniversary…and we all know how those ‘firsts’ are a struggle…here is a ‘first’ for me. This evening Max and I curl up in the family room…he snoozes now in his red chair and I sip a glass of a beautiful Chianti 2005 from Castiglioni. One of my Thanksgiving guests must have left it behind for me. It is beautiful, and a perfect treat as I sit and write an update here.
One daughter in London, England,,,another, in New York City…my son out for the night…I find myself alone with memories of past traditions and rituals, facing again the sense of being an individual in the world. Memory bubbles, like those strung out above a comic strip character’s head, are filled with words like, “I remember when…I miss…We used to…” If only you could know what a happy rich family life we had, carving the pumpkin with the face that my father always carved into ours back at home. It didn’t matter that we moved every two years or so, there were experiences that we brought with us, wherever we settled. And I brought them with me.
It’s been a difficult week. We were pretty late last Thursday, getting down to the river for our walk at the off leash park. I guess the breeds run in shifts, the larger guys showing up as the sun goes down…big guys with drool, jowls, thick jaws and strong-looking legs. Max went skipping into that mix and for a short while it put a smile on my face. While his ‘dad’ leaned on a fence and spoke on a cell phone, a broad shouldered pit bull took off running after Max in the tall grass. Max, as per usual, wore a smile on ‘his’ face and I saw the tip of his tail, like a flag, bobbing up and down against the purple sky. As I continued to hike north, eventually Max was able to pull himself out of the circle, and spew his way back in my direction. A relief!
What didn’t go so well was an encounter as we headed back south along the river. We were making our way through a stand of trees and dusk had arrived…colours were being absorbed by night and sound became more distinct…and travel seemed faster on foot than what it had seemed in the light. From the woods, sped a large dark form…Max saw him coming from a distance and immediately sat next to me, completely submitting and afraid. It was only seconds and the huge furry beast was upon him. Max was being bitten, I knew it because he was crying out in loud yelps. I had no choice but to stand back.
Calling out to the owner, I asked her to call her dog off, at which point, she made a weak effort, calling out, “Montana”. It seemed like forever, for her to catch up to the collision and Max continued to cry. As the owner walked by, with NO acknowledgement, Montana, withdrew and I stepped over to my pooch. He was shaken, but seemed alright…no limping…just a very close rub up against his Mom and then he was, like a shot, heading for home!
I breathed a sigh of relief and once home, took Max into the warm light of the kitchen to do an all over inspection. I was very relieved to find that all was well and so for the next six days, all WAS well. However, on Wednesday, over my noon hour, I noticed a wet spot on Max’s hip…while he was somewhat protective of the area, I got a close look and saw that there was a gaping wound and I knew by his reaction that it was hurting.
Long story short: Max had surgery yesterday morning…debriding and stitching the wound…a course of antibiotics…a day of sedation. Now we are in the midst of a 10 to 14 day blitz with the protective cone. I took him down to one of ol’ Laurie-dog’s favourite spots tonight for his fresh air and he seemed to be just fine. It’s just going to take both of us more patience, protecting the eight stitches that are needing time to heal on a very open part of his body!
Dr. Marty told us both, not only is it best for my skipping happy Maxwell to stay away from the off leash parks…but it’s likely equally as healthy for me to stay away from them as well. The occasional dog is nasty and ill- tempered…they may be protective of a toy…an owner…or just NOT feeling well. It only takes an instant for things to turn from good to bad…and so Max and I are going to find a ‘better place to be’ for our two hour evening-wander.
Tonight we will share the evening together, curling up with Friday night television and perhaps some time in the studio…and after the excitement of the week, this all seems fine to me. Blessings on your weekend, dear friends and Happy Halloween my special family! I think of everything you have been in my life…the happiness we have shared and I love you.
‘They” say that ‘magic’ happens on Halloween night. I was tucked in for the night….staring into the darkness……thinking…..eyes wide open……in wonder, really. I decided I should write something before I found myself in November and came upstairs to find words and place them down on this page. The computer froze as I decided that I was feeling like orange on blue….feeling like green on red……feeling excited.
It was at that precise moment, on the edge of November that my computer froze and the moment was lost and now I sit on the very summit of a memory….and I look at the clock. It reads….November 01 12:13 A.M. It is a new day….a blank page of pure potential. I anticipate good things this month…new experiences and much to be grateful for.
I was hunting the internet for lyrics to the song Sweetgrass Moon….I couldn’t find them anywhere….so I am at this precise moment humming the melody instead and feel that is enough as I tap tap tap my fingers across the keyboard. This is the song that comes to mind in the first minutes of this new day. Sleep peacefully.
Tonight my hiking ya yas and I enjoyed our Halloween hot tub. The really amazing news of the night was that one of our members shared that she is three months pregnant with her first child! We broke out in great celebration and tears and hugs were exchanged. This has been a long time coming and to some degree, the wait makes the news more exciting. Dear Creator-God shower your blessings upon this family. Protect them.
Another one of the group has just celebrated her fiftieth birthday….so this meant, apart from our usual pot luck of appetizers, a Dairy Queen icecream cake, candles and singing.
A beautiful night….spirited and supportive….rich and overflowing with news and insight. Such strong, wonderful women…such beautiful friends!