I Speak to Grade Fours about Klimt and Quatrains

I enter the class in the morning quiet, and clip my laminated image of Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life under two clips at the front board.  We greet, sing O’ Canada, say our morning prayer, take attendance and then practice the letter O in cursive handwriting, upper and lower case.

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

First…let’s learn about Quatrains!!!

Quad, Quatrain, Quartet, Quadrant, FOUR!!!  A quatrain has four lines! FOUR LINES RHYMING!

Rhyme Schemes?  Let’s just look at the last words of each line…for now, let’s just forget about the rest!!


YES! ABAB rhyme scheme!  Now, let’s play a game…do lots of them…let’s do it until we get it!  Name the rhyme scheme!

P1150028Today it’s some where around -25 degrees, so you may stay in for your recess break!

This painting, The Tree of Life, was created by an artist named Gustav Klimt…tell me everything that you see in this painting.  Anything you see is alright with me!  And…for everything you see…try to find a rhyming word!  This will be our wall of words to choose from.  Will you write a poem for your own Tree of Life today?  A rhyming quatrain?

First…decide on a title.  Mine is The Blessing Tree!  Ideas? Whispering Tree!  Dancing Tree! Golden Tree!  All good ideas!  Now, write your title down in your notebook so that you don’t forget. This is the title for your own tree poem.  Next, choose a rhyme scheme…whatever one you want!  Print it down the right hand side. (ABAB or AABB or ABCA…whatever you like)  Pick words from your rhyming word lists and place them in the order you want, remembering always that the last word of the very first line of a quatrain will always be named ‘A’.  Now…the final challenge is to add words that come before each of your four ‘last words’.  Let’s edit…let’s look for other words…let’s look for better words.  Now, LET’S GO ENJOY LUNCH!

Buckets of white paint to be shared with a partner…two tbsps. of white tempera should do for this!  Let’s look again at Gustav Klimt’s.  Look at the trunk of the tree.  It is pretty short compared to a lot of other trees.  Look at the limbs and the branches of the tree.  Describe the sort of lines needed to paint these. Let’s look at the word wall….and take some of our own rhyming words…COIL, SWIRL, SPRING.  This is how you dip and wipe your brush and this is how you care for the bristles of the brush.  Now, begin…touching three of your paper edges with long branches of the tree.   Gustav Klimt filled his space with the branches of his tree.

P1140994 P1140993 P1140992 P1140991 P1140990 P1140989 P1140995While you’re exchanging your books in the library, I’ll clean the brushes!

Now, let’s look at some of the repeating patterns used by Klimt. Triangles, eyes, there’s a bird!  There is a station over here with gold paint if you’d like to add some while you work.  Here are some oil pastels.  You can also use your pencil crayons.  Let’s think of a colour family though…colours that repeat some of the paper colours…pink, turquoise, blue, white, red…time to create!

P1150012 P1150011 P1150014 P1150013 P1150006 P1150007 P1150008 P1150005 P1150009 P1150004 P1150003 P1150002 P1150001 P1140999 P1140998 P1140997 P1140996And finally, in pencil first, and then traced again with a fine marker or pencil crayon, your title and rhyming quatrains!  Voila!

P1150015 P1150016 P1150017 P1150018 P1150019 P1150020 P1150024 P1150023 P1150022 P1150021 P1150025 P1150027 P1150031 P1150032 P1150033I was blessed by you today, grade four students!  What wisdom!  What engagement!

Tuesday’s Painting: The Tree of Life

My readers are likely wondering when this wall mural is going to be completed…it’s coming!! I continue to embellish and paint into the negative spaces and today Marilyn worked to create a rich sense of warm violet/red soil beneath the tree.  You will know that the piece is completed once I paint the Omega symbol in the bottom right of the picture plane.

Dylan Christopher

Today, ten-year-old Dylan was welcomed into the space and adhered his angel to the wall, shown here just to the left of his head.  I told him that in twenty-five years, he will be able to bring his friends and family into this space and explain that this is where he stood in 2012 and posed for this photograph for me.  Thank you, Dylan.  I think that his angel is a bit of a caricature…so whimsical and lovely.

More than One Hundred Angels Contributed by Children


Water in the Font...Remembrances of Baptisms Just This Past Weekend

It was very peaceful at St. Albert the Great Parish, as Marilyn and I painted yesterday afternoon. 

Painted Embellishments

Everywhere, symbols of our Easter journey!  It had been pouring down rain all afternoon and the light was subdued.  Working in the St. Anne’s room on the Tree of Life, felt like being cozy at home on a bad-weather day. 

Kindergarten Angel...Like an Egg...A Spirit Yet Unborn...Small Cry in a Cacophony Of Angel Voices

By the time we left the church, it had begun to snow…large wet flakes.  A magical transformation that led, eventually, to about a five inch accumulation on everything.  The trees were particularly beautiful.  Because there was so much snow, I didn’t go out to Change the Landscape: One Bag At a Time and it was a wonderful respite. 


A very brief slide show, with a few images from our home parish, St. Albert the Great. 

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Wednesday Afternoon: The Tree of Life

It may seem that this project has been going forever, but that’s ok.  Very gradually the branches of the tree are reaching up to the outside edges…the bubbles are being developed with layers of paint and the angels are one-by-one embellished with marks that create a bridge with the background.  Today was the first day that I felt as though this major project is almost completed.  I have really enjoyed having Marilyn join me on my afternoons in the St. Anne’s room.


I felt excited as we worked this afternoon…time flew and everything seemed freeing where the paint was concerned.  As a result, I left the church later than I had planned.  I was looking forward to the Confirmation this evening, of 90 grade six students.  I’ve been keeping a number of those students in my heart and prayers as I’ve painted on the wall this past month.  Their names are on the wall.

Whimsy on a Monday Afternoon: The Tree of Life

Because I teach today, I went into the church to paint yesterday afternoon.  Marilyn joined me again and together, we shared stories of faith and immersed ourselves in the whimsy of the angels on the wall.  It’s rewarding to see the layers building and from a distance, a rich surface is coming to life.  Ajay is one of the grade six students who will be confirmed by the Bishop next week.  I keep him in my prayers as he makes his journey of faith.

Tuesday Afternoon: The Tree of Life

Resurrection Tree

If you look up to the top left hand corner, you will see some progress on the painting.  I’m reading the work from left to right, two feet at a time….then back to left right, until I reach the bottom and the Omega.  This process involves developing the background and the childrens’ angels with layers of paint, scripture and more names of the baptized.

Jesus is at the Root of Things

Prayer on my heart throughout this time…

“May the heart of Jesus, in the most Blessed Sacrament,
Be praised, adored and loved, with grateful affection,
At every moment in the tabernacles of the world. 
Even to the end of time.  Amen”

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

Tuesdays and A Tree Coming to Life

I haven’t carried my camera lately on Tuedays, so haven’t captured the progress on the Tree of Life.  Last evening I slipped into the St. Anne’s room to snap these shots.  One shows the warp and weft of a net…the litany of Saints that I began on All Saint’s Day.  By now, I’ve almost included 1,000 names of holy men and women…I like the sense that given a fall, their prayers would ‘capture’ us…lift us up…support us.  Another photo aims toward the upper left hand corner…I’ve been climbing the ladder again and developing the piece with ongoing layers.

Tuesday With the Tree

Sketch 2005

I forgot my camera for today’s archive…so, I dug out a journal page that might serve as a substitute for just now…something on rich weighty paper, a sketch of a tree.  I really enjoyed Marilyn’s company while painting today.  She worked steadily, applying the gild to the textured bark. I managed to include an additional 200 saint’s names on the wall and in stepping back, realized that I had created a bit of a ‘net’ with the warp and weft movement of the lines.  I like the idea of this net stretched out across the piece…sometimes we need to be captured when we fall.  We also sometimes need to be lifted up from a place of despair, loneliness, worry or fear.  We all need that sometimes.


This is one of the three icons that our Parish has acquired.  As I was exploring some of the methodology involved in writing an icon, I came upon this most amazing site, where the traditional methods are very precisely outlined.  I continue to be intrigued by the process, as much as the result!  If my readers are interested in the historical significance of icon-writing, this is also a great resource.  The gold speaks to me about LIFE and LIGHT and it is an element that resonates throughout the other colours present in the writing, in the warm rich earthy greens, blue and red.

I wanted to incorporate gold into the Tree of Life, as well.  I think it will add relief to the piece and that, given some staining with a darker purple,  it will show off the gnarled texture of the tree’s trunk.


“If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.”
Tennessee Williams



New Artists Welcomed Before the Tree of Life

It was a beautiful afternoon spent in the St. Anne’s Room!  When there are other like-minded artists who will join me in prayer, conversation and painting, it makes the experience such a blessing!  Helen joined us for a visit also.  And when Helen joins me, I always learn something!  Not a verbose entry here…but, an opportunity to express my joy and gratitude.  Topics we chatted about were…halos, wings, angels, Padre Pio, Sarah, Isabella, Philip, Saints, Litany of the Saints, brushstrokes, brush scrubbing, gloss medium, history, the colours gold and purple and their symbolism, royalty, virtues, obedience…I’d say that was quite an interesting afternoon!

A prayer that the two young children shared with me.

Angel of God
My guardian dear
To Whom His love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide. Amen