If We Were Having Coffee 4/19/20: Shelter In Place

Good morning!

If we were having coffee…this Sunday, it would be virtual no matter what since we are still in seclusion. Luckily, we’ve been sharing virtual coffee for years so we’re well aquatinted with the concept. Today we have nice strong French Roast or tea if you prefer. My wonderfully hubby, who bakes when he’s bored, made some chocolate and white chocolate Chip cookies last night that are to die for! Please take a few and tell me what you’ve been up to.

If we were having coffee... I would share that we’ve had an anxious week since we heard last Saturday that my father-in-law had unfortunately contracted the Coronavirus. The hospital checked him over, making sure his lungs and blood count looked good and since he was not coughing or having shortness of breath they sent him home to recuperate. He is over 70 and has diabetes but otherwise is active and in good health and seems to be on the road to recovery, thank goodness. Our worry now is that his wife and the other’s in his house will start to show signs of being sick too. So far so good. This is especially important since his step-daughter, her husband and their 3 year old son came to stay with them when all this craziness started thinking that his rural neighborhood would be safer than their city appartment. Irony at it’s worst.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that those of us in this house, fortunately are doing well health wise. We are also fortunate because since my husband, my son and I are all school employees we are able work from home and still have an income. My only trips out have been to the grocery store every two weeks or so. It’s a very stressful outing. I don my mask and rush through the the aisles grabbing the things we must have. I’m usually exhausted the rest of the day just from the anxiety. I don’t think it’s that I’m so afraid of becoming infected, since our numbers in this area of NJ are thankfully very low, but more that I feel guilty being out, like I shouldn’t be leaving my house at all. I realize that’s not rational but it just goes to show the mental state I’m in!

If we were having coffee…I would share that one good thing that has come from all this time at home is that I am creating lots of artwork and learning many new techniques. I’m hoping to amass enough inventory to open an Etsy store. Here are some samples. What do you think?

Pinterest and YouTube have become my life lines! There are so many talented artists willing to share their ideas.

If we were having coffee…I would ask how you have been spending your days during this unusual time. I hope you have found a way to stay positive and connected. Please visit our host EcleticAli an catch up with some other bloggers sharing coffee, see what’s been happening in their world.

Thanks for stopping.  Take care, Be well.

A Garden of Sculpture

I was sorry to read in the papers a last week that Seward Johnson had passed away. His name may not be familiar to some, but here in New Jersey, where he was born, we remember him fondly. Mr Johnson was lucky enough to be heir to the Johnson Pharmaceutical fortune but more than that, he was an amazing artist who created hundreds of works of art. He was also founder of a lovely place, not 45 minutes from my home, called Grounds for Sculpture.

Grounds for Sculpture, opened in 1992, is a magical place in Hamilton, New Jersey, not too far from Trenton. Beyond the vine covered walls you will find 42 acres of gardens and rolling hills featuring hundreds of Seward Johnson’s works along with those of other local artist. The park is filled with meandering paths, beautiful landscaping and surprises around every corner. Some of the pieces there belong to Johnson’s Monumental Scale collection, towering statues 20 feet tall, as well as many of his Beyond the Frame vignettes where the visitor can step inside famous Impressionist paintings. These are among my favorites along with his Celebrating the Familiar series. Several inside exhibits and restaurants are also on site. Miss Dee and I visited there in late August, our last outing of the summer break. Here are just a few of the lovely things we saw.

“A Turn of the Century” from the Monumental Scale collection, inspired by Renoir. This piece is about 20 feet tall and stands in front of Rat’s, one of the gardens artistic eateries..
“God Bless America” also larger than life! Obviously inspired by American Gothic.
Miss Dee getting to know one of the ladies in the Celebrating the Familiar series. This one is called “Captured”
A piece called “Summer Thinking” There is actually writing in the journal!
Here I have stepped into one of the vignettes called “Family Secret” from the Beyond the Frame series
So many lovely and peaceful pathways
Another Beyond the Frame vignettes sits at the edge of one of the property’s lakes. This one is called “Sailing the Seine”
“Daydream” a massive sculpture that can actually be seen from the road as you drive by the gardens
A Japanese inspired garden near the snack bar
Another Impressionist inspired piece “If It Were Time”
A fantasy in light and metal called “Fan”
A Van Gogh inspired room.
We made friends with this lovely lady at one of the inside exhibits. She is part of the Icons Revisited series
Even the Cafe where we had lunch was a work of art.

We had such a wonderful time exploring Grounds for Sculpture. We’ve already made plans to go again because our feet gave out before we saw even half of the many pieces on display. I think the Fall would be a great time to go back. Every season in fact, will add something new. Seward Johnson, in his 89 years on Earth, certainly added a great deal of beauty to the world.

Getting Creative in 2019

Happy New Year! It’s a little late, I know, but it still feels pretty new to me. Like many of us, I made some plans and resolutions for 2019 and one of them was to spend more time being creative (thanks Jill Kuhn for your inspiration!)

The biggest hurdle I’ve had with this was not finding the motivation, but finding a convenient space where I could spread out and not have to put everything away each time my family needed to have a meal! Some of my supplies were down in the basement, some in the kitchen hutch, a few in the pantry and even my bedroom closet! Well that’s all changed now!

My husband slaved through the last few weeks of the summer renovating what was formerly the kids play area downstairs (I mean, our youngest is 20, I think they are past needing it!) He moved his collections and “man cave” stuff down there as well as our guest area, freeing up our smallest bedroom for my art space. Yay!

Weeks were spent clearing out the room, stripping wallpaper and painting the walls a nice bright white. We are planning on replacing the carpet with a clean grey laminate but I’ll have to save a bit more for that. I’d purchased a smaller, black desk for our computer, which will still share the room so that was moved in. The final step was assembling the amazing new art desk my wonderful hubby had given me for my birthday back in December. It’s got so many compartments and it’s on wheels!

I’ve been picking up items here and there, curtains and cool storage containers (Anyone who knows me can tell you I get weirdly jazzed about organization!) My sister had a nifty little bookcase up for grabs (we actually traded her the bed frame from that room that we no longer needed-win/win!) and I was able to find a desk chair that looks brand new for just $25 on one of those online yard sale sites.

Then….FINALLY….this past Sunday, I collected my many art supplies from their many hiding places and put them away in my very own art room!! I’ve been like a kid on Christmas morning, just giddy with excitement and creative motivation, painting and experimenting with new techniques. One of the best parts is thatI can just leave it all out, ready for the next time I find a few minutes to create. I do have to remember to close the door, though, so the cat won’t walk through the wet paint or eat the brushes. She’s like that!

I’m hoping that this new found creative jag lasts a long, long time making 2019 the year of creativity! It just goes to show that sometimes resolutions or plans can take some patience, a bit of elbow grease and a little faith but they can happen. May all your plans for the coming year be every bit as gratifying!

The Weekly Smile…Some Creative Fun

This week I had a blast getting creative!

A friend asked if I would make some decorative alphabet letters for her son, who will be turning three next week and loves Disney. She purchased the 9 inch wooden letters that spelled out his name and gave me a list of his seven favorite Disney characters. I knew most of them but, I admit, I had to look up one or two. Hey, my kids are in college! I’ve been out of the Disney loop for a while! 😊

Just for fun, let’s see if you all can guess the character each letter was based on.

[Updated 2/22/17…Each letter is now pictured next to the Disney character who inspired it.]

Jake from "The Neverland Pirates"

Jake from “The Neverland Pirates”

image

Mater from “Cars”

image

Dory from “Finding Nemo”

image

Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story”

image

Sulley from “Monsters Inc.”

image

Mickey of course!

image

Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh”

And the finished product:

image

 

Ta-da! I found painting the letters to be very relaxing, kind of like coloring. I highly recommend it to anyone who just wants to do something fun and creative.

The Weekly Smile is brought to you by Trent’s World. Stop by and check out the rest of the smiles or, better yet, leave one of your own.😊

Jack in Watercolor

One of the items on my Summer Bucket List  is to create at least 6 new pieces of art. The thing is, I love to draw and paint. It brings me great joy and relaxes me but I find that I don’t always make the time for it so that’s why it’s on the list.

My newest passion has been watercolor. I’ve been painting with acrylics and oils since I was a teenager but watercolor is pretty new to me. I’m discovering a lot of fun ways to work with it and I’m so thrilled that I discovered watercolor pencils because they make the medium so much more versatile. I guess that’s because good old paper and pencils is my first real love.

Yesterday I decided I was going to try doing a portrait of our cat Jack. Naturally I worked from a photo because I can’t count on him to hold still that long (at least not when I need him to!) Here is the result:

image

I’m pretty happy with it although I’m not sure I captured his personality that well. 😊  I picked this photo because I loved the sense of light. I mean, what cat doesn’t enjoy a nap in the sun.

Next I plan on trying a cat portrait of his sister. Hopefully that will turn out well too, but either way, it’s great fun. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxing leisure activity.

Coloring Yourself Happy

Last night I spent an hour playing with the new drawing pens I received for Christmas.  This is the result…

image

I admit I shamelessly (more or less), stole the picture from one of the Christmas cards that came in the mail. I drew the image in pen first and then added watercolor. It felt sort of like paint-by-number or coloring. It was very relaxing.

I’ve always loved to color, both as a kid and with my own kids. Experts are now saying that it is a great way to lessen stress. There was even an article in today’s paper about some neighborhood “Coloring Clubs” where people meet to color themselves happy! I think a lot of adults have always enjoyed coloring and now they are finally ready to admit it.  In fact, it’s  become very trendy.

The stores are filled with fancy adult coloring books. Maybe if you spend $15 for a book it feels more like a grown up hobby instead of a childhood pastime! A coworker gave me one for my birthday and Santa brought one for Miss Dee. Of course, her’s is “Sherlock” themed so she can immerse herself in Benedict Cumberbatch while she de-stresses!

image

I imagine you can use crayons in these books but it seems like they are mostly paired with colored pencils. This too, I think, is to stress the idea  that this is a grownup thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love colored pencils, but I still get more excited about a brand new 64 box of Crayola crayons with the built in sharpener, adult or not.😊

Don’t you just love when something so old fashioned (Crayola has been around since 1902 and crayons themselves date back to Egyptian times), suddenly comes back in vogue? I am especially tickled that it is something that does not have a screen or remote control and is not fueled by batteries or electricity, but by creativity and imagination! So how about if we all grab a box of crayons and some coloring books and get busy? I’m feeling more relaxed already.

 

 

Getting Arty

Item number six on my Summer Bucket List was to complete one new piece of art per week. I haven’t quite managed one a week but I’m pretty close.  At least I’ve kept my hand in and I’ve enjoyed learning some new techniques. Mostly I’ve been working with watercolor paint and pencils which are a new medium for me. But I have really enjoyed some of watercolors that other bloggers like Jodi at Life In Between has posted so I thought I would give them a try. These are a few of the results.

The first one is a pencil drawing I did from an old photo of Miss Dee. After completing it I went back with a wet brush and blended the water to give it a more reflective look. I am happy with how it came out except that I wish I had made the colors darker. The whole image seems a little washed out…

image
This one is just pencil but I’m thinking I should go back and blend the water like I did I the picture above. What do you think?

image

These two are images taken from postcards that Kate over at Sincerely Kate  was kind enough to send to me. They were both done with watercolor paint first then I used pencil and ink pen to strengthen some of the lines. I was inspired by my pal Jill Kuhn while working on the tulips at the bottom.  She created some beautiful poppies by using paint first then tracing around the shapes with pen in order to define the flowers. My flowers are smaller but I tried to use the same technique. Thanks for the idea Jill!

image

image

It is really a lot of fun stretching my boundaries art wise. I had always worked in pencil or acrylic paint and the sameness had made art a little boring. Now I find that I am being inspired by all the cool stuff I see on other people’s blogs. It feels more like an adventure!

Trash to (sort of) Treasure

Summer Bucket List item #6!

Last week Hubby came home with a “found object” (this is our code for a trash picked item). It was a quirky little piece but appealed to me because of its uniqueness. He thought it had potential and he knows how I love to up cycle! This is what it looked like when he found it: 

It obviously graced someone’s garden for quite sometime but then became old and worn out. I saw a project! First I needed a clean slate to work with so I cleaned it and sanded off as much of the rust as I could then I covered the metal parts with a white latex paint specifically for metal.

imageNext, I had some mosaic tiles and grout left from another project so I covered the “leaves” with green tiles and used broken ones on top to form a flower pattern. I ran out of certain colors so I had to fudge a little…

imageWhile the adhesive dried, I painted some stripes on the pot just to liven it up and cover some marks that were on it. Finally I grouted the tiles added a cute little lemon thyme plant I picked up at the grocery and…Ta-da!

imageNow it’s hanging out in my garden! I had a lot of fun being creative and the only cost involved was the $2.98 for the plant! What do you think? 🌼

A Day at The Met!

This Saturday Miss Dee and I took a trip to the Metropoliton Museum of Art in New Your City.  We traveled by bus, not usually my favorite mode of transportation but it was actually very nice. Our driver and tour director couldn’t have been more helpful, efficient and entertaining. Of course our very first order of business was to take a selfie on the bus!    selfieDon’t we look happy!? Anyway, this was our first trip to the Met so I did a little research first. Here’s what I found out:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially The Met), located in New York City, is the largest art museum in the United States and one of the ten largest in the world.[7] Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided among seventeen curatorial departments.[8] The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan’s Museum Mile, is by area one of the world’s largest art galleries.  http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art

When we got there, we could see what a truly imposing building it was…

front1

entrance3

ceiling

Here is some of the building’s beautiful architecture.

The collection is so endless, we knew we would only be able to see a small part of it so we decided to concentrate mostly on the American Wing.
Mezzanine8

This area is called The Charles Engelhard Court and it anchors the American Wing, added in 1924, to the main building. The graceful statue of Diana that stands in the center was designed by artist  Augustus Saint-Gaudens as a finial for Madison Square Garden.

At each end of the court are two very different architectural elements. One is this beautiful loggia or porch from the Long Island home of Louis Comfort Tiffany:

more tiffany6

mezanine9

I wish I had gotten a better photo of the windows at the rear. They were really amazing examples of Tiffany glass. He is another Tiffany work that was along another wall in the court.

Tiffany5

The colors and detail were incredible. I can’t imagine how many hour of work went into creating this. Below is another  Tiffany designed landscape in mosaic that sits along another wall.

mosaic7

At the other end of the court is the facade of a federal bank that was once located on Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. Kind of unusual to see a building inside a building! The front door is actually the  entrance to the American wing.

house

Once inside we wandered through the many galleries enjoying the numerous painting and sculptures by all the greatest American artist including Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and one of my favorites, John Singer Sargent.

sisters

This one titled “The Wyndham Sisters” painted in 1899, is my favorite. It captures the elegance and beauty of the era. I love the softness in the colors and how each woman’s personality comes through. I’ve seen this work in books many times but I never realized how large it was till I saw it in person!

And of course, how could you have an American Wing without including…

IMG_1381
Anyone living in the U.S. has probably seen a print of this painting by Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868) aptly titled “Washington Crossing the Delaware”. I know I have, but I never realized how massive it was in real life. Even the gold frame screams “Liberty!” Seriously, though, it is a very moving piece. I can understand why it has been reproduced so often.

After the American Wing, we had just enough time to take in a special Vincent van Gogh exhibit called “Irises and Roses”. No photos were allowed but they would not have done justice to these beautiful paintings anyway. The colors and textures were so rich.

By the time we boarded the bus for home we were exhausted but also disappointed. We hadn’t had time to see any of the European Impressionist,  the Greek and Roman statues, the Dutch and Spanish masters or about a thousand other things! We did get a quick look at the Egyptian wing but only because we had to go through it to get to the ladies room! It felt like we spent a lot of time trying to find our way around. Thank goodness for all those bored security guards willing to give directions!

All in all, Miss Dee and I give our trip to The Met two big thumbs up. We highly recommend it to anyone who loves great art, history and architecture. We, however, feel like we will need at least 10 more trips there in order to truly appreciate it!

For more info about The Met: http://www.metmuseum.org

Judging a Book By Its Cover

I know the saying really is “Never judge a book by its cover”  but I’m speaking in the more literal sense. You know, actual books and their actual covers. Being a very visual person,  I notice book covers.  If there is an interesting or intriguing photo or illustration,  I stop and look.

I’m a bit of a book store addict. Shopping online only works if I know what I want. When I’m just browsing I need to be in a room surrounded by actual books. Secondhand bookstores are my favorite because you never know what treasure you might find tucked away on the shelves.  On these expeditions, I  often purchase a book just because I am am fascinated by the cover or title. What can I say, I’m reckless like that sometimes.

Here are some examples. These are only the covers. I’m not going to tell you what the books are about (if you don’t already know) because I figure if you are as intrigued by the covers as I was, you will find out for yourself!  I will, however, tell you that they all lived up to my expectations and were well worth the time.

image

Creepy, huh? I admit, I like weird, especially weird photographs. The entire book is filled with the same kind of visuals. This is a Young Adult book, by the way, but as far as I’m concerned a good story is a good story no matter what section of the store it’s in.

image

Another YA book. I found this one at a yard sale and was desperate to find out how a baseball bat and an umbrella worked together in the story line. The characters are wonderful. My 16 year old has read it several times and considers it one of her favorite books.

image

So so here is a book about…..a book! I’m already hooked.  I really wanted to know more about this intense society woman posing in her 1920’s finery. This was a real person and a real diary and that alone made me curious.

imageAnd finally, how could you not love the title of this book?  I am a great lover of letters and post cards. They are so much more personal than emails or texts. I think that  woman gazing off into the water and the hand written card tugged at the romantic in me.

This isn’t a foolproof method though.  I’ve bought other books because of their great covers only to be very disappointed by the story. Live and learn, you know. I still enjoy the hunt and I get really excited when I discover a hidden gem.

Let’s hear your thoughts. Have you ever judged a book by its cover? What book was it? Was it worth the risk?