Body of Work

I held my breath as we careened across four lanes of traffic high above the Willamette River. It was Thursday morning and I should have been working on my business. Instead, I was teaching a girl I met on a cold rainy night in the parking lot of Best Buy how to drive. As we pulled into a parking spot at the Moda Center, she shook her head and sighed. “How do you stay so calm? I’m shaking.” 20 years of driving and raising seven boys, I thought. “It gets better with more practice,” I say. “You just need to keep driving with someone each day.”
That’s the same thing I need to remember as I work on my own projects. It gets better with practice, one day at a time. Each time I work on a fresh skill, advance a skill or concept, I’m creating a “body of work” a collection of pieces that is unified just like a girl mastering all the skills needed to drive.

One of the resources that I’m finding helpful is an article by Carolyn Edlund on creating a body of artwork.  It’s important for artists to focus on one area and have their work communicate clearly, however I think this carries over to other professions as well. Carolyn talks about applying to shows that fit your work, submitting your best work, and presenting your work professionally. In any profession, brushing up on your skillset and presenting your past work in an appealing manner is clearly necessary when attempting for a new position, but I think it applies to our every day work ethic as well. Thinking about an idea in a fresh way, bringing your best positive attitude to the table, taking care of the details are all part of creating your personal “body of work” whether you are an artist or not.

Filing Away Ideas

Aug6Two years ago my dad wrote a sketch for a story and asked me if it was a project I’d like to work on.  I had many other projects at the time as well, so it sat on my computer, waiting it’s turn for attention.  I had a bit of time last summer and created my own first sketch, a drawing for the book. It was cute, but it didn’t really do what we wanted. So, it returned to the waiting stage.

Soon after I joined Pinterest, I saw a pin that struck my fancy, and then another.  The spark was kindled and I began a board for the project.  The board now has 362 pins (and 56 followers, though it’s simply for my own project.) Today I used one of those pins and moved it to a second board for the project. The Completed for Papa’s Book board. As I incorporate a concept that the pin inspires into the book, the pin is moved out to clear that idea from my mind.  The pin I drew inspiration from today is a little polka dotted dress.

Where do you put your ideas once you’ve finished with them?

Common Mother

It was only a five hour drive to another country last week.  We may even have gone up for the Olympics if I’d had realized how close it really was.  Nothing of those games remained besides the grumblings of the commuters about the shove of people on the mass transit while the games were there.

We got the benefit of coming after the games though in the hotel rates.  (They had a “spring special” on the website.)  We stayed at the Sutton Place Hotel and had two bedrooms as well as the pull out couch in the living room. The lobby was nice and the staff quite friendly, not at all stuffy about us being there with all the munchkins.

Our suite was much larger than I’d thought we were getting, and though a “bit” worn, perfect for us.  The munchkins took no time at all in turning the livingroom into a comfy space.

I’m really not much of a tourist, ever, at all.  However, I thought that we would like to experience a suspension bridge over a river and treetop bridges like ones in Myst, one of their favorite games.

We took the subway and the ferryboat to get there, which the munchkins just loved.

We only needed to stay for one night in B.C., to take care of some business there, so I hadn’t made plans for us to do too much.  It was very nice to just get a feel for the place in order to find out whether we wanted to come back.

I also found a little shop just down from the hotel, La Vie in Rose. Things were reasonably priced even though it was right on the main avenue.

I have to say that the whole city gave us a flashback of being in Europe, because of the British influence.  It’s so lovely that it was just a few moments over the border.  We really enjoyed our time there, and are already thinking about when we can go again.  It was cold while we were there though!

The sketch of the children is from Marguerite de Angeli’s Mother Goose Book.  The city of Vancouver had quite a few of the older houses on the main streets outside the city proper, similar to the ones back in the Netherlands as well as many Victorian homes of early settlers from England.  We stopped in Seattle on the way home, and I’ll show you  some places there next week.

These cities are a far cry from where my mother’s family grew up in Appalachia.  The watercolor on the left is from a book named Appalachia, illustrated by Barry Moser.

I ordered a wooden Indian stamp from England after watching a video on how fabric is hand printed in India.  The stamp arrived this we
ek and we are going to try it out in our fabric books tomorrow.  I’ll show you my book when we finish the class in four weeks.  It’s the same class I was teaching last semester, and I have just continued working in the same fabric book.  See the earlier photos here.

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This is what I want my whiskey barrel herb garden to look like.  (Photo from B&B link below) Last year, it did not. Last year, it attempted to breed mosquitoes, until I found them and turned the whole mess over.  (Sounds familiar doesn’t it.)  It seems, according to this blog, Backyard Farming, that all I needed was a few good holes.  Hmm. I’ll be trying again, without drowning my plants.  I found a bunch of great instructions about pot gardening that I hope to try this year at Baking and Books.

I am both amazed and excited that All of the munchkins have decided that

they can share a theme for their birthday parties this year.  I can not tell you how pleased I am.  Of course, dh says “Why do you need a theme? Make a cake and buy food.”  He does not think like me at all.  The littlest munchkin is dreaming of candy, candy, and more candy, so I know that dh is not far off the mark.  However, this does not deter me. This is an oportunity to decorate!  Naturally, details to follow…

Patty brought me this darling miniature basket from Africa.  She was on a survey trip with her husband and ran across these in one of her girlfriend’s homes there.  It’s full of the deepest scented beans I’ve smelled in a long time.  It’s customary to share a bean when your friends come to visit.  They chew them up and then spit out the bean when they’re done.  I’m keeping mine for the scent as a reminder of friendship and travel.

We are on to our next city in the art history class I’m teaching on Fridays.  I chose China and showed the kids this very cool clip from a documentary on China. This week I found a straight forward guide to making simple paper for their first time.  It’s by Denise Fleming and will be easy enough for them to do.  I took a papermaking workshop years ago and loved it.  This particular class of kids is very inquisitive so I think they will enjoy it too.



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Tiny art steps

As some of you may have been informed, this is basketball season for the small set. (If you don’t do the year round thing.) Personal confession: tennis is the only sport that ever interested me enough to play. Even at that, I was listed as the black sheep for defaulting a match because of blisters.

However, I married an athlete (charming) and am raising a brood of them (athletes all).  I find that when my own munchkins are playing, I can find fault with the referees from time to time.  I can also cheer loud enough to make the teen age girls in front of me turn around and see whose mom that was.  Therefore, I have taken to sewing at intense points in the games. Sewing? Yes, sewing. Here is the project from this week’s games.

This perky little guy kept his eye on me, but was much too interested in his lunch to move.  I thought I should show this other little guy (below) to you since he’s been showing up in my sketchbook all over the place.  I’m working on seeing what he looks like with different moods.

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Early Spring

The daffodil appeared under my window today.  The tiny purple and white Creeping Phlox are showing their faces under the cedars, and the ornamental plum burst into bloom just yesterday morning.  However, it hasn’t snowed here yet this year and all of this blooming has me nervous.  Nervous for my plum trees, nervous for my apple blossoms, and naturally, for the cherries…

To calm the nerves, I did what any wise gardener does.  I turned my head and dove into other winter pursuits.  It is still February in the pacific northwest, I reminded myself.

So, I shopped for paints for my art history class at Fabric Depot (only the most glorious fabric store in this half of the world). The munchkins, meanwhile, found some fabric that they must have for pillows in the library.  It matches the sunny yellow walls and of course, mother, it features a literary character. 

I also found some very lovely wool felt to make some small stuffies or some flowers.  I’ve been seeing some very cute stuffies lately.  Here is one link to a free pattern for a knit stuffy made by Ysolda. The picture isn’t working, but her .pdf link is and they are so cute.  Just scroll down to the bottom of her pattern page to the “download” button.

Below is another adorable stuffy, made by Cassie at Belladia.

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Love and chocolate (strawberries)

These are so easy to make, and so worth it.  I used one bar of good Dutch chocolate and one package of fresh ripe strawberries.

I melted the chocolate in a double boiler (you can use the microwave if you don’t have a double boiler.)  Then I washed and dried each one before rolling them in the melted chocolate.

Dh said he couldn’t tell whether they were really good after just one.  He had to try a second in order to really rate them.  By the third one, he was certain that they were good.

I commissioned one of the munchkins to draw something special just for you for Valentines this year. It’s a maze that you can solve!  You can click on the photo to view it larger. If you click on this link: Rose Maze, it will take you to one that you can print out.

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under the weather

I have to be a bit short and sweet tonight.  The munchkins are sharing the flu bug at Deer Haven right now.  Here’s what we used to cheer them up tonight.

Japanese cubee’s.  So far we’ve made Inigo Montoya and The FoxThe Little Prince has been downloaded for future construction.

One of the munchkins wanted to know where you could make your own font, so we found these sites:

Font Generator or Fontifier

This is one thing that I keep telling myself I’m going to create.  Both of these sites design a font in your very own handwriting.  (This is how to make it look like you always use your very best handwriting!)


This site allows you to download a simple editor to create any kind of font.

Word Editor:

This site explains how to access the font editor inside Microsoft Word.

If you like that kind of thing, I’d love to see the fonts you come up with…


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Calendar Art

Art becomes meaningful when it touches an emotional chord, like music, a kiss, or a scent does.  In my studio hangs an Edward Hopper calendar from 1999.  It’s always open to January because the featured painting is “Room in New York” from 1932.  This particular piece leads me to a direct memory of a night in my life soon after we were married…and, as evidenced by the subject chosen by the artist, more than one couple has had this same night.

In college I always carried a weekly planner with art on the left side and the blank days on the other.  I recall choosing a Joan Walsh Anglund calendar as a way to remember home and one of my dearest childhood book authors. There was one with Renaissance angels as well, from the Met, probably a gift…

I havn’t used a physical calendar since the Expedition tangled with a semi on ice.  We’ve been operating on one vehicle, and therefore one online calendar to keep car usage tightly monitored. I’ve looked longingly at beautiful agendas, journal style calendar notebooks,

and the occasional wall hung with art prints in large format.  (I did purchase a Frank LLoyd Wright agenda simply for all the photos of his work.)

I just fell in love with a new calendar.  It is by Masha D’yans and it features a series of watercolored trees.  I love trees and the lyrical way she portrays them caught my eye as I walked past, not even thinking about getting a calendar at all this year.  Her line work is structural, an excellent compliment to the blending of the browns and greens in her trunks and leaves.  And one little touch she features is a sweet little bird, one of my other loves!


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Beautiful Purse

Here are the photos of the Cracker Jacks contest prize, fresh off the sewing machine.  Take a close look at the sparkling deer and the initial, because your bags will have both of those.

I love the fact that it drapes beautifully (being linen) and has summery stripes on the inside.  I’ve used cheerful pink bias tape on the pocket for a bit of cheer as well.

(Dh said that I would have to charge an outrageous sum if I was to sell these

because of the crazy amount of handiwork caused by the frame I created around the initial. He also warned that I would lose my sanity if I did a frame again, so yours will have your initial, but no frame.)

Are you longing for summer already?  My baby sister just had a baby, so I’m heading to sunny Florida in a few weeks to love on her and the new munchkin.  I’ll bring back some cheery photos, and hopefully decorate her home for Christmas as well.  I’ll be rotating the photos and art on her walls just as I’ll be doing on ours…toward the white theme.

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I know that it seems so far away from those of us experiencing late fall, but Australia has summer right now.  That’s why all the photos of sun drenched children are running about in their newly released papermache issue #2.

It’s getting very dark here very early.  I am so excited about decorating for Christmas this year. Everything is going to be white. white. white. I can hardly wait until tomorrow morning.  You’ll see.  You’ll want to go white too…

Allison Trentelman

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