Making + Listening::5/2014

I’ve been very busy making this past week. First priority was a custom order for Dawn, for a pouch for her son’s Kindle. She also wanted it to be protected against wetness. After talking about her son’s interests, this is the design we came up with.

photo 1 copy

For the uninitiated, that’s a Minecraft cake block.

I lined it with PUL, the fabric that’s used for cloth diapers and wet bags.

photo 2 copy

It’s on its way to Dawn and her son now. I always put my own good intentions into what I make–even when I don’t know who may end up buying something, I make everything as if I’m sewing a gift for a friend. But when I do know who will be getting it, that’s even better, because then I’m thinking of them all the way through. Which is to say, I enjoyed making this for Ander!

Also this week I’ve been working to put together the next issue of Art Together. I am so excited about it. As part of that process, I made my first gelatin printmaking plate.

gelatin plate

Photo by V. Hood.

The kids and I spent Wednesday morning experimenting with it, and we were back at it after lunch on Thursday! I have a stack of gelatin plates in my fridge right now (I cut the large one down into smaller ones). Because this is a completely normal thing for some of us, to have ink-stained printmaking plates hanging out in the fridge.

I’m also happy to be making time for running again. Earlier this month I was cleared by the orthopedist to start slowly, with short distances, adding only 1/2 mile or so of mileage each week. I was waylaid a bit while my husband was away last week, but I got back to the track last night and it felt so good! I’m also transitioning to minimalist shoes, on the orthopedist’s recommendation, which requires a different footstrike, too. (I know, I lost the non-runners there, sorry.) The bright side is that coming back slowly to running makes it the perfect time to transition, because you have to do that slowly too. By the time sunrise is early enough for me to get out before I need to tend to the day (my favorite running time), I ought to be able to just head out the door and go.

As for listening…it’s still the Olympics most of the time, and Pandora shuffle in the art room. What a happy thing, to listen to music and make art.

(Linking up with Dawn again this week.)

Give-away: Home/School/Life Magazine Subscription

Thanks to everyone for your supportive comments, and congratulations to Heather, whose number came up on random.org. She commented, “Our family has been seeking a publication like the one you are creating that delves into all aspects of a homeschooling life. We are excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this enriching, inspiring, supportive community. Thank you for creating this magazine. Yay!”

I was very excited when Shelli announced she’d been asked to be the editor of a new homeschooling magazine, Home/School/Life Magazine. Firstly, because I’ve been reading Shelli for a while and I’m truly happy when good things happen for people I know. (I don’t know if I have just found a good corner of the internet or what, but I know of so many creative, generous, hardworking people putting fantastic things into the world.) Secondly, because I don’t read any homeschooling magazines or websites regularly. I read blogs and connect with other homeschoolers online, but I haven’t subscribed to a homeschool magazine in quite a long time. Shelli’s description of the new magazine sounded like it would fill a niche in my mailbox.

And this was before she asked if I’d be interested in writing an art column…

So yes, I now have a personal interest in the success of this magazine, beyond my desire that it succeed because Shelli is the editor and because it will be really nice to have a homeschooling magazine to read. I was really excited to be asked to be a part of it. (So excited I emailed my husband: “I know you’re on a plane right now and won’t read this for hours, but I can’t wait to tell you this!!”) I admit it’s challenging to write a post about something that isn’t, actually, complete yet. The first issue is due this spring, so I can’t review it yet and tell you it’s awesome. But I can tell you I’ve seen the planned contents, and I’m really, really looking forward to it.

HSL flier jpeg

Besides my column, the magazine will include Shelli’s on hands-on science, a curriculum column, and one on books—in every issue. Other regular features include “One Subject, Four Ways,” “Balancing Act,” (something I think we’re all trying to do), and a profile of a homeschooling family. Each issue will also look at a different career path, and have sections devoted to varying grade levels: early grades, middle grades, and high school. And each issue will also include three feature articles. This is an ambitious, exciting-sounding outline for the sort of magazine I’ve been wishing existed.

Shelli and Amy, the editor-in-chief, have generously offered me the chance to give away a one-year digital subscription to the magazine to one of my readers. If you’re interested, leave a comment telling me why you’re excited for a new homeschooling magazine, and make sure to include your name and email address in the proper boxes. (If you’re chosen, I’ll also need your city/state and/or country, but this giveaway is open to everyone, worldwide.) As for me, I am most excited for the tangible connection to a larger community that I think this magazine will represent.

Comments will be open until next Tuesday, February 25, at 6 pm EST, and I’ll contact the winner (and update this post) on February 26.

Making+Listening::4/2014

The block-printing ink we use is water-soluble. Unlike oil-based ink, it’s non-toxic and easy to clean up (and truthfully, it’s the first one that concerns me more–my goal is always high quality, non-toxic art materials). However, it’s not permanent even when dry, which means we can’t go into a print with any wet media. So I did some poking around online and learned about Akua Intaglio inks. It’s soy-based, water-based, permanent, and cleans up with dish soap and water. I ordered a small container of black ink off Amazon to experiment with before going all in and ordering, well, lots of it.

hanging prints

I played with it earlier this week. (I also set up a simple registration system so my prints would be evenly centered.)

drying rock crab prints

This is my latest linocut, which I actually did a few weeks ago, but then needed to adjust, and I never posted about it. It’s from a sketch I made of a rock crab quite a while ago.

After the prints dried overnight, I added watercolor to one to see if the ink was, indeed, permanent.

watercolor + print

How delightful is that?! I’m not sure what to do with these. I think I should have cut the paper larger–it’s 5″ x 7″ (the print itself is 4″ x 6″). I’m mulling over the possibilities for these. And of course, the kids and I are also experimenting with this ink together–but I can’t show you that yet.

Since I’m calling this a Making + Listening post and linking up with Dawn, we’ve mostly been listening and watching the Olympics. The kids-at-home get to see events live in the mornings, which is fun, and they pulled out the world atlas so they could learn to identify the athletes’ countries by their flags. And when I’m working in the art area, either by myself or with the kids, it’s Pandora–back on the 80s station because I need the extra pep when I’m the only parent for the week.

Another Baby Sweater + Hat Set

baby sweater

Very quickly here to share the (finally) finished baby sweater and hat for my eldest’s teacher, who is due in April. (So look at me go! Finished with time to spare!) This has actually been done for a couple of weeks, waiting for me to get on with weaving in ends and knitting a hat and sewing on buttons–which are handpainted, from Peace Fleece, and they’ve been in my button stash for about ten years or so.

Other details: The sweater pattern is Assisted Hatching, the hat pattern is Ashen, the yarn is Tosh Vintage in denim, the needles were US size 7, and the cuteness is undeniable. That about sums it up.

And just a quick post because I’m also working on a custom order, wanting to try out some new soy-based ink, putting together the printmaking issue of the zine and thinking you will really like it, and solo parenting for the week. I’ll pop in again soon. Have a great Monday!

Prompt: Connect the Dots

I often use the writealm prompts in my own private writing, but rarely do I do anything with the results. Usually I’m just musing to myself. Every now and then, though, something results that I want to share more widely. Yesterday’s prompt was “connect the dots,” and this poem emerged. Thanks for indulging me as I share something not at all homeschool or art related.

Craning necks achingly backwards
squinting into inky blackness to find lines
between stars like glittered sand flung from a child’s shovel.
With persistence the haphazard disarray
brought into order
each shine assigned its place
connected with others to form images,
images connected with stories,
figures of myth fixed on high:
navigation linked to plot from the beginning.

I too seek meaning in the arbitrary,
looking to connect the plot points of my life,
seeking the inevitability of the space in which I stand,
tracing my way backwards, finding proof that I am
exactly
where I belong,
proof of the reliability of
the star map of my soul.

How To: Postcard Backgrounds

After my last post, Lisa asked what I meant by “collaging Bristol board” and if I could explain it with pictures, too. Yes, I can! This is a really loose, open-ended type of thing, with no right or wrong way to do it, so I’m not sure I should even call it a tutorial. It’s more of, “Come peek over my shoulder while I do this.”

Materials: Bristol board, which is heavier than card stock but thinner than, say, cereal box cardboard; gel medium and a brush, although you can experiment with other adhesives; an assortment of papers; paint (optional)

The first thing I do is select some papers, generally around some focus. I chose warm colors for this collage.

selection of papers

I have an expandable file folder where I have papers I’ve collected, sorted by color. You can see that it includes some pre-painted book pages, too. The orange is a paper bag, and the ketchup is cut from a calendar. The rest are odds and ends of decorative papers.

I chose a few and began tearing and arranging. Then I glued the first one down.

first piece glued on

Just play with your papers. This one sheet of Bristol board is going to get cut into four pieces in the end anyway, so there’s not a lot of pressure here.

3 pieces glued on

all papers glued on

After I’d covered the sheet completely, I decided that the top part needed a little bit more, because it was a big space with mainly just that one paper. I thought that after I cut the sheet into fours, the cards cut from that section would be a little boring. So I decided to print over it using one of these foam texture plates the kids and I found on clearance (the whole pack for $1.99!) in a craft store last week. They were in the craft foam section, intended for cut-and-glue kids’ crafts, but my 9yo and I looked at them and immediately said, Printmaking!

foam texture plates

Aren’t they so cool? And they’re washable, so we can re-use them. I chose the smaller bumps (you can barely see it in this picture; it’s the darkest blue in the middle there) and added some prints to my collage using acrylic paint.

finished sheet

Better. Then I cut it into four equal rectangles, which are each 4.5 x 6″.

four individual cards

I think the one on the bottom right is my favorite. I really like creating something like this and then cutting it up–I always think the smaller compositions that result are interesting. And if they’re not, I can do something on them individually. I’ll probably add some cut-out images to these before mailing them.

So, that’s about it. I’m not great with creating collages as artwork–I find it challenging. But I like doing this for postcards. It’s play, and sometimes it’s just the thing to give myself a little break during the day, too.

Building up the Mail Stash

February might be a tough month for blogging, because much of the kid-involved art exploration going on here will probably end up in either my column or my e-zine. After those are published, the outtakes can and probably will end up here (we are exploring so. much.), but until then… I’m excited about the things we’re reading, doing, and planning to do, yet have to be quiet about it here.

mail stash at amyhoodarts.com

However, I can share with you that I’ve been building up my mail stash! With odds and ends of time in the art studio, I’ve made lots of postcards to send out. These aren’t for swaps–as fun as swaps are, I think right now I much prefer the idea of sending out mail to people with whom I already have a connection. I can add a personal note and have the fun of waiting for it to land and brighten a day. I haven’t set a formal goal with this (because it’s a FUN THING), but I like the idea of trying to send out something every week. So while the kids were making Valentines, I made Valentine-themed postcards. When I had ten minutes downstairs, I collaged some Bristol board to turn into postcards. It’s like a quick hit of art therapy, and then comes the fun of sending them out to friends.

I can also share this: in case you missed it on Twitter, a get-to-know-me questionnaire was featured on the Home/School/Life blog last week. Check it out!

A wee bit of overwhelm

Lilies from the supermarket.

Lilies from the supermarket.

As we wind down January and head into February, I’m feeling a little…overwhelmed. I agreed to run some printmaking workshops over February school vacation. I want the third issue of Art Together complete by the end of February. I have a guest post due by the end of February, and a column due as well. My husband will be away for another full week. February is only 28 days long. It’s not looking nearly long enough right now. But these are good “problems” to have—many Good Things will be accomplished in February. Yes.

So, a column is exciting! But also a bit pressure-y in a way writing my own blog is not. A magazine that comes out four times a year doesn’t lend to an immediate conversation with the reader, so I’m left trying to anticipate what those readers might want most. I polled my family members: If you were a homeschooler or parent who maybe wasn’t sure about “doing art” with your kids, what would you most want to know? These are the answers I received:

Husband: I don’t know. What do you want to know about [his industry]??

9yo: Give them things to do—art activities.

12yo: Make sure they know it’s easy.

5yo: Tell them what Art is.

I’m not touching “what Art is” with a ten-foot pole, I’ll tell you that much! (But the 5yo definitely thinks big and all-encompassing.) I like my oldest’s response. Inspiring confidence is definitely a goal of mine.

With all this writing ahead of me, I am keenly missing my running time. I didn’t necessarily compose writing while I was running—letting my mind wander in that way resulted in slower running, I noticed—but focusing my mind on breathing and pacing left it open to work on ideas without me beaming a spotlight on the process. Running is active mindfulness for me, clearing the brain. Oh, how I miss it. I get out for one-mile walks when I can, but that’s only 15 minutes and doesn’t have quite the same mind-clearing effect. I have another follow-up with the orthopedist next week and I’m hoping he says I can at least head back to the track (a soft, level surface) for short runs.

Sewing projects in progress.

Sewing projects in progress.

So how did I spend my weekend? Was I working on those deadlines? Um, not so much. I spent it at karate with the kids. Taking my daughter shopping to spend a gift card. She loved the mama-daughter shopping time (the boys went to get haircuts with dad), and I love that she loved it, even though department store shopping isn’t my thing. Doing the weekly grocery shopping, which, until spring arrives, now includes flowers as a line item. Sewing some pouches, none of which are complete yet. Planning another linocut. Spinning the wheels in my head a bit. How about you?

Lily sketch.

Lily sketch.

Friday Links on Saturday

Taken at Wat Arun by my husband, used here so I have a pretty picture to go with this post.

Taken at Wat Arun by my husband, used here so I have a pretty picture to go with this post.

Between Monday being a holiday and Wednesday being a snow day and tracking delayed and canceled flights, I thought Friday was Thursday, so I’m sharing Friday links on Saturday. Follow?! Anyway, just a few things I saw this week that I thought were interesting:

Take Care of Your Little Notebook by Charles Simic, tweeted by iHanna. I have multitudes of notebooks…a writing one, a project one, sketchbooks, the One With the Grocery List and Meal Plans, one in my bag at all times… (I sell little notebooks, too). I loved this piece. Evernote-on-my-phone may occasionally supplement but will never, ever replace an actual notebook for me.

Debunking the Myth of the 10,000 Hours Rule at Brainpickings. We’ve all heard the idea that 10,000 hours at one activity equals mastery, but this explains that it’s how you use those hours that matter–and that errors are a part of the process.

Related, On Doing the Work on Seth’s Blog is a reminder that you actually have to do the work to learn anything. “Learning is not watching a video, learning is taking action and seeing what happens.”

Speaking of learning, as soon as I saw Sketchbook Skool (and yes, the misuse of “k” is driving me nuts) tweeted by Jodi Wiley and I checked it out, I decided to sign up. I’ve been wanting to take a drawing class, and I was really clicked in to the idea of an in-person class with a live, right-there instructor and classmates that I could talk to in real time. But the figure drawing class I had my eye on is $500 and 45 minutes away for something like 10 weeknights in a row. I wasn’t actively looking for an online substitute, but when I saw this it felt right–I use my sketchbook a lot, but I’d like to be more organized about it, and I really like the aspect of seeing how others approach theirs. This is not the same as a figure drawing class, not at all, but it will scratch my itch for a drawing class and, of course, it’s $400 cheaper and I don’t have to spend 90 minutes in the car every week.

Last but not least, there’s a new homeschool magazine debuting soon, Home / School / Life, and I was approached by the editor, Shelli Pabis, to write an art column. I very excitedly said yes. The magazine will be available in print and digital format, and the first issue will be available this spring.

Have a great weekend!

Making + Listening::3/2014

Sunday at the grocery store, the kids and I bought flowers. Cheerful flowers are one of the small joys of life, no? We finally settled on delphiniums (blue) and tulips (pink). I decided to use the flowers as a drawing practice subject. I found it was easier, at first, to draw the delphiniums. I suspect this is because I have an idea of what tulips look like, but I’m not familiar with delphiniums. My brain couldn’t try to take over with preconceived ideas, in other words. With the delphiniums, all I could do was look at what was there and draw it.

my sketch-delphiniums at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches

Sigh, it’s so hard to photograph pencil sketches. At any rate, of course I asked the kids if they wanted to draw the flowers too. And they did. My 9yo received a nice set of colored pencils for Christmas, and he uses them every chance he gets (I would too!). So his sketch of the tulips in their vase is in color.

N's drawing of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

G, like me, sketched in pencil.

G's drawing 2 at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches by 5yo

G's drawing at amyhoodarts.com

I gave the tulips another go and quite liked the ones on the right, which I went over in Pitt pen.

my sketch-tulips at amyhoodarts.com

tulip sketches

Rather a long time ago, I decided I wanted to figure out linocuts, but it sort of settled to the bottom of the list. However, we’ve been looking at lots of examples of woodcuts and block prints lately, and I’ve been trying to get a handle on what decisions the artists made, and why. I thought I could try to translate the tulip sketch into a linocut. I worked on the carving a bit at a time over several days, and I’m pleased with the result. This is a test print I just pulled today.

linocut of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

Actually, I’m going to rephrase that. I am not just “pleased” with the results. I’m really, really happy. I look at this and I am proud of it. Pfft on the understatement. I am all WOW! I carved this!!

Creating is just so fabulous.

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week for Making + Listening. As for the listening part, I found some Pete Yorn on my computer and enjoyed listening to that. Otherwise, it was a lot more of the 80s station to get through the work trip, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks thanks to cancellations and delays. He finally got home yesterday, two days late, and we were all so happy to see him.