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Blast from the Past

A trip down memory lane tonight…as I have been cleaning and reorganizing the studio, I am slowly taking 30-plus years-old slides to Walgreens and having them put on CD so I can actually look at them. We rotate the pics on the computer screen saver. The top is a pic of a picnic area near Aspen when we traveled through Colorado one summer. It was such a gorgeous spot.

This was our first trip to the Grand Canyon – we left Phoenix one morning and drove to the North Rim – no reservations, no sweaters – figured since it was over 100 degrees in Phoenix, it would be hot at the Canyon – slight miscalculation…. This is some 30 years ago, and while we’ve been back to the Canyon, we haven’t yet gone again to the north rim. As I look at the photos again, I am reminded about issues of pollution at the Canyon; our visit a year ago was much less “bright” and “clear,” due to pollution.

Visiting the Grand Canyon is a must for every one, and if you can go the way of the North Rim, you go through the Painted Desert, the Vermillion Cliffs, and absolutely incredible meadows. You can just watch the development of the earth through all the visible layers.

These pics were before I learned about the advantages of morning light. My shots from a year ago reflect the oranges and reds more, but the afternoon light brings its own beauty – lots of shades of blues. See the person in the bottom right? Puts the Canyon in perspective….

While we have never had a lot of money, we have been lucky enough to visit many places in the US, usually on a shoe strong, with the only memories our photos. This is of me and hubby on the beach at Kitty Hawk, NC, taken by friends of ours who were visiting from Vermont. We spent many weeks over the years on this beach, in the waters, taking the ferry to Ocracoke Island, and clamming/crabbing in the bay.

When we first moved to Phoenix after we got married, we ended up taking a short honeymoon trip to San Diego and to the zoo, where we were up close and personal with one of the tigers.

Friends snapped this of the two of us at Disneyland. We don’t have a lot of pictures of the two of us – hubby with all his hair and me a much thinner person!

We loved out two years in Maryland – Ellicott City. We would take the bridge from Annapolis over the bay to the Eastern Shore. For my 40th birthday we took a cruise on the Chesapeake to little St. Michael’s Island. You can see the bridge in the background.

This is of the river flowing through Kankakee, Illinois, south of Chicago, when I joined Dean on one of his jobs. We picnicked here a couple of times while he was finishing that particular job.

Coming tomorrow – our very own “girls’ night” quilting!

Musings for a Monday

Not a bad day for a Monday. New marking period begins, cracking down on tardies (especially for my morning class), and working on basic equations. All my class averages are over 80%. First time ever I think that has happened. I’m really proud of the work my students are doing.

Brought home one set of papers, as I want to continue with sewing tonight. I did some rearranging of furniture over the weekend, and now all my art/fiber books are sorted and close by in the studio. I think I will start cutting my 100 strips tonight, in preparation for the new class. I do have some fab fabrics – I’ll take a couple of pics tonight. But I am still fighting the urge to go buy more fabric……I love bright colors!

So my kids aren’t buying the “math holiday” on October 31 – Distributive Property Day. Marketers call it Halloween, but when you think about it, candy gets distributed to everyone who comes to the door – no one gets left out, which is what happens when you use the distributive property in algebra. You share what’s outside the parentheses with everything inside. Sharing is caring….which all my students from last year have remembered. I will bring candy corn next Friday, the 30th, to celebrate Distributive Property, regardless of how much they tease….whatever it takes!

I didn’t get to the Ansel Adams show at the Tucson Museum of Art this weekend – maybe next Saturday, along with a couple of other galleries. I need to drool over art again!

In Memoriam – My Mother

Betty Lemke Macfarlane, February 10, 1927 – August 23, 2009. My mother was a woman before her time. She was the first in her family to go to college – Albany Teachers College in Albany, New York, now the State University at Albany. She taught in Speculator, New York until she married my father, Eugene, home from the Merchant Marines and World War II. Her mother-in-law, my Nana, lived with the family, so she was able to be a working mother before that was the norm for women. She formed close relationships with teachers she worked with that lasted for many years (Lorraine Chudomelka, Geraldine Nicholson, Mary Maxwell, Jim Gallagher, Tom Benton, just to name a few.) She moved from teaching at Stratford Elementary (now Sam Yellin Elementary after the long-time sheriff) to Pine Hill, New Jersey, where she taught sixth grade.

Her parents, Arthur and Dorothy Jones of Brewster, New York, were caretakers at Morefar, the Starr estate. Her father died when my mother was in her twenties – a remembrance of the kitchen in Staten Island when she got the news. When we were little, we would take the train to Brewster to visit her mother, sister Dorothy, and my cousin Bonnie. There were visits to the hen house and the “main house,” especially to swim in the pool – a real extravagance at the time.

She followed my father in his insurance jobs, from living at “tirty-tree fif avnoo” in Manhatten to Staten Island to Stratford, New Jersey, to Glens Falls, New York, to Northfield, Vermont, to Middletown, Ohio. When my father died suddenly at 48, she returned to Vermont to teach, where she reconnected with an old family friend, Peter Macfarlane. A year later she remarried, returned to Brewster, and then retired with Peter to the Outer Banks.My mother knitted as a hobby. Everyone in the family always had sweaters of every design and color. In later years she turned to embroidery (finishing some of the pieces I started and let slide), cross stitch, and quilting. She was known for her whole cloth quilts, and we made a quilt together – I appliqued and she quilted. In later years she read voraciously until her eyesight started to fail because of cataracts.

She would visit family in Arizona and Texas, and as she got more into genealogy, she and niece Bonnie would uncover new (old) relatives, and she would visit them. She made a surprise trip to Vermont where I was teaching to come to opening night of “Peter Pan,” the first musical I did with 80 middle school students. She traveled to Australia and Europe (many times), finding family in Scotland, and missing relatives in England. She visited Hawaii, a favorite, having been there first when I started my teaching career on Maui.

Rest in peace.

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Auto-Pilot 2

Just because I am doing math for the next 18 days, I can still look at work and enjoy it and think about what I will do next….

This is as a result of playing around with a couple of new brushes downloaded from NAPP. It’s still not a wow, but I can keep thinking about it….I love trying to work with autumn colors and trying to get the brilliance of a New England September. I’m learning how to paste marbled fabrics into areas, and then manipulate them from there – something I have been wanting to do for YEARS!

From a Dover book of public domain art deco images – am having a lot of fun with these. I can use some of the images and then totally turn them into something else entirely. I am thinking that these will be a great line of prints and cards on down the road….

This is learning how to use the pen tool – something that has been very difficult for me. I wanted to see if I could get some good “fish” images to work with for some upcoming shows.

Playing around with some stock images, just to see what I could do. This gives me a great chance to try out filters and brushes and all the various adjustments that can be done – and deleting or saving whatever I want – better than an eraser!

I am quite partial to the work Suzan and I did on this one – getting ready for Fish Follies next year! I already have one fiber piece ready to go, another in the works, and some plans for digital entries.

On Auto-Pilot

This is one of my favorite digital images, created from our marbled fabric. Hubby did the photography of the flower, which just seemed to want to jump into the background. I have several iterations of this, but there’s something about the whiteness that really appeals.

But all I can do right now is just look and think about what I could do. I am on auto-pilot until January 24 when I take a major math test. I am spending several hours each night (as well as a huge chunk of winter vacation) reviewing and learning more math. I want to pass this test the first time around, for several reasons: I want to keep my current position for next uear, as I really love it, and I want to be done with studying so I can get back to more art-making!

I’ve created a couple of new digital pieces that I really like, and I bought a couple of the Dover books with free clip art images. I played around with a couple and was quite pleased with them. In fact, after nearly 14 years, I finally figured out how to do a particular thing in Photoshop! It just happened…which is pretty serendipitous. I want to do more!!!!

But it is auto-pilot for another 18 days….that’s a lotta math……

On Turning 60….

So I am trying to figure out how I got to be 60….For my 30th year, I went to China. At 40 I quit the learning center because of ethics. At 50 I started a nonprofit. Now – I will be teaching high school algebra. With 6 years to go till retirement.

I guess there comes a time when we wonder about our lives. I’m overall happy. I know I am slowing down, but I still get excited by new ideas and new adventures – the adventure just needs to be a ground-level now. I no longer feel like every minute must be productive to some great cause, especially after the month I’ve had – three eye surgeries, root canal – falling apart like the teeth. I find I am enjoying just sitting and reading, sewing, creating art, talking to friends, worrying about the state of the world….

The fifties were a busy time – lots of mid-life crises, changes, wondering what teaching is all about and if it will ever change. Who knows about the sixties – supposed to be the new 50….I don’t think so. Who knows what’s ahead in the next decade – nothing seems to show a picture….

Choosing Battles….

I went and tried to make a difference- tried to make my school district better. They are undergoing an audit – and tonight was a public hearing to get responses from the staff and community. So I wanted to raise a couple of curriculum issues. In talking with friends from around this district, they are all overwhelmed by the demands on them from the district – most are fine with the individual schools – it’s the incompetence of the district.

It would be nice if they actually listened to what the audit team finds…..

More on Masks…

I continued to work on masks, and I took the original flower picture. First I changed the hue to blue, and then I painted with black to return the bulk of the color back to the original red. Then I did another saturation layer to yellow and repainted with black to restore some red. I realized after that I could paint the whole picture black and then just pick small pieces to change color. It’s not a wow, but I learned from this assignment.

A Presentation…

I’m at school, and I figured if I used PhotoBooth, I could snap pictures of the mounted artwork for the blog, especially since I didn’t have my camera today. So with a little finagling, I got some shots. The kids are really excited today to have work mounted and up – as more work has gone up, they have gotten more and more excited about what they are seeing. We have started having more positive comments, and no one is shy about showing their work now.

First assignment you see is the use of shape, line and color to represent their names. Each letter has to show something about them.

The next assignment was a color study – same line designs so the kids could see how the design would change. The first is strictly primary colors, the second is secondary colors, the third everything in the crayon box, and the fourth is a monochromatic study.


Yea! I signed up for the third in a series of classes from I figured if I had some new Photoshop stuff to work on, perhaps I wouldn’t spend so much time dealing with school work. So everything arrived today – after a really horrible day.

Someone vandalized my new art room – I went in to get set up in preparation for cleaning, only to find someone had smeared paint, toliet paper, and lots of markers all over the room. The student has been caught and arrested – one thing about my new school, they don’t mess around with discipline issues. The room is still a “crime scene”, which of course the kids are fascinated with. I don’t know how long it will take to clean up, but I figure the earliest we can get in the room is middle of next week.

I started hanging some of the kids’ work, which I think the kids are really enjoying. Several of the teachers couldn’t believe the work they were seeing – come on, the kids aren’t without talent! So even more important to get their work up for enjoyment. I need to make some posters explaining the various assignments, so there will be more understanding of the processes.

Plus, at our faculty meeting after school, there is even more for us to do – call to set up parent conferences, finish WICPs and SCIPs for students at risk (before parent conferences), get progress grades in, run progress reports, fold and stuff envelopes with the progress reports, develop a plan for involving parents of the kids on our team. And the potential for Blue Flu next Friday, in respone to the way the district has been dragging on new contracts.

Won’t be a boring school year!!

Doing a Presentation

We just finished a demo for the Tucson Arts and Crafts Association – nice group of people! We are considering joining, as we want to get together with like-minded people interested in the arts. The demo went really well, people really loved our stuff. Too bad we had nothing available to sell, as we are low on product, and we just promised some to the quilt guild on Maui. Hopefully people will get ahold of us, as we gave them coupons to fabric and ebay auctions.

It’s interesting to see how far we have come in our work when we show a retrospective of pieces. It’s time to start submitting to shows again – and find time to work during the school week!!

An Art Room Needing Artists….

So we actually have an art room, being used now mostly for storage. I brought one of the art classes down to see if they would like to rehab the room and use it. They all agreed, and now I just need permission. The light in the room is fabulous – lots of windows, great views, and some walls that could use some good murals.

We have 51 desks, so some of those need to go elsewhere. Loads of filing cabinets that need to get moved, and lots of storage that needs serious cleaning. Plus a closet full of supplies. The kids seem to think that cleaning will get them out of working on art. Ha! They’ll work even harder!!

What I would really like to see is the redevelopment of a visual arts program at the school. Given what we know about integration of the arts across the curriculum, it seems a real shame that we are not taking advantage of the room and a good curriculum.

So I’m Teaching Art…

The first day back I discover that I am teaching an exploratory arts class. Hmmmm. Interesting, since I have absolutely no official, formal training. By the end of the second day it looks like I have four preps, which my principal says can be two art classes. Fast forward to this past week to find out the counsellors aren’t even aware we have art classes. I’m supposed to be teaching something else entirely.

The decision-making and having to answer to dozens of people at the district office does have its drawabacks. I made some polite noise to get two art classes, each a quarter in length, and I can repeat the classes, so I won’t have additional courses to prepare for.

Which still leaves me having to prepare art classes. So I’m punting – no classroom or materials, but I did discover on Friday a room I could use and lots of hidden stuff in a closet. So I am going to see if I can get the kids to help set up the room. I have started with the basic elements of visual art, some sketching, and distinct assignments using the elements.

One thing that is working well is that I am scanning the work by the kids and then setting up slide shows so the kids can see the results of the assignments. I am hoping to teach something about doing a critique using this method.

Based on all the discussion, and personal experiences, concerning making kids feel positive in art class, I have been very careful about what I am saying to the kids, trying to be as positive as possible, letting them see that everyone sees something differently, and approaches it differently.

So for this week we are going to clean the new art room and work on perspective drawings. Next weekend I’ll worry about what comes next. For the perspective lesson I copied pictures from the net to include in my powerpoint. Hopefully this week I can get the cables I need to get internet into my classroom.

Aieeee – what a month!

Well, school has started, and I have had NO time to do anything even remotely related to my own art. Which is usually the way the year starts out, but I really, truly am tryng to set aside time for myself. I hit the ground running this year, being in a situation where decisions are dependent on the district office – if you look up “dysfunctional” in the dictionary, you will find my school district as a prime example.

I have spent every weekend working to get caught up on papers and do lesson plans for THREE preps – which is allowed by consensus, but it’s making me nuts. Today it took me three hours just to get the plans for the week sketched out and the official lesson plans written and emailed to three different people. One thing about being at a failing school is that everyone is watching you. I don’t mind that, but I would like the decision-making process simplified.

I did get to the zoo yesterday and enjoyed watching the polar bear swim back and forth, the rhinos wallow in the mud, and the otter’s antics. It was relaxing.

ass="level-0" value="113">Tim Gunn
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