The Gift of being Thankful

A culture left behind?

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything. One can construe I’ve nothing to share because in the areas of art and music I now lack common sense. But, in my defense, I share a new page on improvisation covering the use of the Alternate Bass and I am starting an new section of my own arrangements! You can look for them under Improvisation and Arrangement tabs.

4WH7044_largeI’ve been teaching drawing to a lovely young adult. The subject about clouds came up and I was explaining to her that as clouds approach us they are higher and farther up from the horizon line and this is very evident when viewing mackerel clouds. She had no idea what mackerel clouds. I explained these clouds signified wet weather in 36 hrs. She had no concept of forecasting weather before the age when satellite/radar imaging is seen on smartphone.

The youth of our country are missing out on a great deal of life experiences. Fewer go to orchestral or traditional, acoustical concerts, they don’t wait weeks for their favorite book to arrive via media mail, they don’t learn social skills by working out differences on a pickup softball or football game in the backyard and they occupy themselves most often by playing or communicating with digital devices.

A better Gift

You see images of children frantically ripping off giftwrap to get to the present. They see it and maybe ooh and ah a bit and then immediately go on to the next gift. They don’t comprehend the time, expense and or thought that went into the gift. When there is so much offered to them, they can’t seem to value that there was a cost to the gift. There was an expectation that the gift is to advance the enjoyment and development of the child.

It comforts me to know that children still prefer printed books over e-readers. Parents still value the importance of music lessons, especially piano. Children still like to express themselves artistically with hands on material. With the frenzy of gift giving, you would hope parents revert to the tried and true giving of gifts. Christmas and birthdays were never complete unless we received a book. Some years there were a few more presents, often just one or two more (and one or both were often clothes). My parents did well trying to give us one thing we would really use. It’s hard to go wrong with books, music lessons, art classes or archery instruction. These expand the child’s world through words or improves their sense of accomplishments and helps eye, hand and mind coordination through the mastery of a skill. Yes, these are often solitary pursuits, but they are shared socially. By the way, if one of us children in my family struck out in the present department, we still better not make faces, pout or not be thankful because giving thanks is giving back a gift in return. After all, even God thinks it is wrong to be unthankful (2Timothy 3:2 “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy…”). Much of our news is generated by stories of unthankfulness. It seems as if everyone is focused on how they are offended or unappreciated instead of being thankful for a country where they can express themselves and have the option to choose how they will live their life.

So, think about your gift giving, may you have a good response. Here’s a link to a past post about thanksgiving. Be Thankful!!

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It’s All in the Details !

The children are back in school, my piano studio is in full swing and I’m gearing up to teach art classes in a couple of weeks. All this and in my moments of insomnia a childhood poem comes to mind.

old-poster-of-a-farrier-artist-unknown

An old poster of a farrier at work – artist is unknown

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the Kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

I was horse crazy as a child (still am) and anything mentioning horses caught my attention! (It’s the same with Kipling’s “Smuggler’s Song” with it’s chorus of: “Five and twenty ponies, Trotting through the dark …”

But, I digress. The important point is – it’s all in those little, nasty details. I mean, it can make or break a painting or performance. So, I make lists and plow through life, training the brain to be bi-focal – focus on the big picture, focus on the details.

This same element applies to art. Even if the style is loose, there are details in the highlights, correct placement of contrasts. If you’re into art, check my classes or art out in the pages on the left.

APPLICATION: For those piano students, here’s a section from the assignment book I print out for my students about practicing :

Practice at least five (5) days each week, especially with 24 hours after the lesson. Most people settle into a weekday schedule so follow your schedule the best you can.

Practice just makes permanentperfect practice makes perfect!
Good practice means:

  • Make sure there are no distractions. Shut the TV & radio off. Ask people using the telephone if they can use it in another room from the piano.
  • Take all books out from which you will be working. Have a pencil on hand to mark any trouble spots or reminders.
  • Warm-up with 1-2 old pieces like songs, drills or technique pieces (Finger Power for example).
  • Work on your new scales or other drills slowly. Be careful of any fingering and phrasing required. If you can play it correctly through the first time, play it again a bit faster. Increase tempo on each repeat. If you cannot play it correctly the first time through, you are playing too fast! This is most important, you must slow down.
  • After drills are done, work from the method book or the piece you are having the most trouble with or you like the least. Play through the whole song or a section at least one time slowly, then choose a line or phrase, play slowly as described under drills. Method pieces or recital pieces usually require between a third to a half your practice time.
  • Work on your goal for each piece. This is found either in the box labelled “area of concern” or directly on the music. Allow 2-10 minutes. This set is as important as playing slowly. Do at least one goal a day. Do two or more if they are easy to accomplish. Working on goals makes you learn a skill perfectly and you come away from the practice time knowing you have “conquered” an obstacle.

  • Move on to the next pieces. Remember, it is far better to learn two or three measures of a song each day perfectly than to play 1-2 times through the entire piece haphazardly.
  • Learning perfectly means:
    CORRECT NOTES
    CORRECT RHYTHM
    CORRECT TEMPO
    CORRECT EXPRESSION (pedaling, loud/soft, legato/staccato touches)
    CORRECT HAND POSITION and

    CORRECT FINGERING.
  • Ask yourself, “Did I learn the goal well enough to play it perfectly each day of practice? If not, continue to work on it every day until you can play it correctly the first time each practice time.
  • PLAY OLD FAVORITES. Spend at least 2 minutes (for beginner students) to 10 or more minutes for more advanced students. Check for memory, dynamics, smooth and flowing phrasing, clean pedaling. These are the songs you need to know when someone asks to hear you play.

War of the Worlds

There’s more to teaching piano than a degree. Play with fingers, think on your feet, yes – but hear with your heart.

Deep Bluesforget texting while playing piano

Have you ever had the “other world” encroach on your lesson time with a student? I don’t mean the ringing of cell phones and the beeps of a new text. They shouldn’t be anywhere near the piano bench nor allowed on until after the lesson. This “world” is a more old fashioned disruption. It is daily life brought into the lesson time or rearing it’s devious head in the middle of an important musical point you’re trying to make.

 

A similar incident happened when a nine year old started crying upon turning to the song “The Circus is Coming to Town.” I must be the most obtuse teacher around. I saw no reason for the tears.  The obvious connection to her tears – “The teacher said we are all going to die because of global warming.” Those were her exact words in 1991. I was flabbergasted. Firstly, global warning wasn’t going to be allowed during my lesson time! But, secondly, seeing her real distress (and my tissues piling up beside her) I was glad I didn’t mention this. I told her that we all needed to be responsible for taking care of the world (resources may have been too big a word) and God will take care of us. This satisfied her, but now I  had the problem. I was angry. Angry that a teacher would scare children with such topics when they had no concept of time and how true, natural science truly works. I had to explain this to the mother when she picked up her daughter a few minutes later, wondering why there were tears.

To cap my experiences off, a couple years later a young student and I were trying to make up words using the musical alphabet. Eventually, I chanced on the word D-A-D. A look of terror sprung up on her face and the tears started down her face. Tissues leaped into my fingers and I told her she was safe here and we could play a happy song to chase the sad thoughts away. To be truthful, I’m not sure why I actually got through the lesson as well as I did and the mother explained to me that the two of them don’t mention that word at home. And I thought I was having a bad week because a couple students didn’t pay up. This was a new level of perspective.
critismn not enough emotion

Effective Resolutions

So, some schools do teach you how to handle the unruly students. They convince you that showing the unwilling out the door is better for you than a hard-earned paycheck. You develop a love for a beautiful medium of expression and nothing prepares you for the student and the tissue box event. That’s where you need to draw on your love, not just for music, but for the student. Pray for a caring response and guidance on how music can help the student cope with the disappointments and heartaches in life.

Music Therapy – ancient remedy

There were many students who had very hard lives and never showed it, but I could hear it through their fingers and see it on their faces as they lost themselves in the notes pouring from the antique Steinway. Sorrows as old as time, remedies just as tried through the ages. Just as the Psalms tell of men, overwhelmed by sorrows, find relief through music and faith their faith in a faithful God. 

But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning:
for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.
(17) Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing:
for God is my defense, and the God of my mercy.Ps 59:16

I teach improvisation to all my students so they can have a means of expressions and a skill to play new songs well past the years they were “made to take piano lessons.” But we must also give our students the skill to express their emotions through music as a form of therapy and expression. And, may the songs they require include many happy songs!

Where do you get your inspiration?

30

30″ x 24″ acrylic landscape

Just last week I had the privilege to deliver another painting. It was the traditional landscape – autumn in New England, you know, rippling brook, children playing in the brook, etc. It was nothing shockingly new, but it gave the recipients satisfaction (I hope). For me, there was a personal satisfaction because I drew inspiration from personal experience. Air dried at 55mph When I was a preteen, my mother, her sister and cousins joined me and my sisters at a park for a picnic in summer. We were to go to a small amusement park (Mt Park on Mt Tom) after lunch and were told, “Stay clean and no playing in the brook!” Wouldn’t you know it, just after lunch my cousin had to play in the brook – literally. He fell and got his shorts wet!. The 60’s were a wonderful time to be kids. Grass was real, lawns were meant to play in and leave marks where the base lines were run and dandelions were a minefield for “Make up to mommy” bouquets. Mothers also took events more in stride, too. So my Aunt Joyce told the kids to jump in the car and asked Jackie (probably about 7 yrs old) to take the wet shorts off and leave the undies on. She slapped those shorts over the car’s antenna, secured it with a coupe of pins and we rode proudly to the amusement park watching the shorts flap in the wind. It was a good memory. Capture23Years passed and I was saying to my children, “Now remember, don’t get wet!” The words never worked. Jumpers and pant legs always seemed to get wet. Nothing can give an artist inspiration like childhood memories! Kids do the funniest things and sometimes that humor translates perfectly onto the paper or canvas. YOUR HOMEWORK – Call up some of your pleasant and funny memories. Life’s too short to stew only in the present.

The High Cost of Ignorance

What are five things you wish you had learned earlier in life?

Everyday I am learning new things. A couple posts ago I mentioned the shortcuts some artists take that’s pretty much akin to a vocalist lip-synching at a concert.
After saying goodbye to the refrigerator repair man (hopefully not the compressor) I took a walk among the genuine creatures on the farm – the ducks and my Border Collie, Kansa. I was hunting grasshoppers when oCapture16ne crept it’s way up my pant leg. I learned grasshoppers only travel UP and I was dancing a jig trying to turn him around fast! The neighbors just had confirmation that I lost it. This incident is not profound in its own right; however, I was reminded of one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.

#1 It’s okay to laugh at yourself (and not at others unless they are laughing at themselves, too). I was at a small tiny town in north central Kansas, practicing on the organ for a funeral the next day. The town was astir with talk that a musician from the east was going to be playing at the ceremony. This was big news to them. It was important to me to make that good impression (after all, I had a reputation to make and uphold in only an hour). I pulled out the different stops and played some nice sounding chords. As the journey down the tabs progressed, the chords became more creative, maybe more intense, too. Well, I’ll just admit it, I started playing good old diminished seventh chords just like they did in the old movies when the train was boring down on the lady, tied up and lying on the tracks.
This was getting really fun!
As I took a break to set the tabs to a new setting, someone called out to me, “Heh, there, just wanna let you know the tower speaker’s on and the whole town’s hearing you make that awful noise!”
I guess then that knowing when to laugh at yourself is more important than making a good impression.

#2 You only have one time to make a great first impression but you should give people more than one chance.

A piano student’s mother sat in a lesson with her daughter for the first time. Now, I am a very good piano teacher and am passionate about teaching; however, I had a massive sinus infection (from sanding drywall mud) and this was a very bad day but not the type to cancel piano lessons. Without asking for my feedback, she stopped her daughter’s lessons because she said I lacked enthusiasm. The sad part was her daughter was learning well and enjoyed lessons, but the mother felt her daughter didn’t need her help anymore to learn piano and probably felt threatened.
How many times we wished we weren’t judge by the impression we gave others that in no way truly represented our self? How many times did we lose out on a good opportunity because we were quick to judge someone based on one impression?

#3 Being yourself is more important than being important. And there is no one more important than one in need. So, try to be giving.

I don’t know how much of my life was used up trying to impress or please others instead of just being my self. I’m not saying it’s wrong to try to make a good impression – on the contrary. First and good impressions are very important. They allow those you interact with to have confidence in your word and work. But if you think making great first impressions is hard, try being someone you’re not!
It’s like the time our family had a couple over to share a meal and to see our new house we built. Everything was going to plan. The meal was great, I got to use a dishwasher for the first time leaving both hubby and myself free to take the couple on the grand tour.
The lady guest and I were following behind the men when the man ask,”Why is there so much foam spilling out from the dishwasher?”
I tried to stay calm as I rounded the turn into the kitchen – but there was no denying the gallons of containers of foam engulfing the kitchen floor. It looked like a 7′ x 12′ hot tub spewing out suds galore! It must have been quite hilarious to watch me try to mop up the mess as elegantly and inconspicuously as possible.

Now, if anyone has a “right” to be important, you would think it would be Jesus Christ! Yet Christ took up the towel and washed His disciples’ feet. He specifically said that this was done as an example of an attitude for us to follow. His actions backed up the words He spoke, “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (John 13:16)

So-Amish or Mennonites? Which one answered God’s call in my life? womens-control-top-pantyhose_nude-rt
One Sunday our family was in route from Massachusetts to Kansas when our car motor’s belt broke in Berne, Indiana. My hubby quickly pulled to the shoulder. The Amish guided their buggies around us. The faces of the elders looked on in disapproval, maybe a little relish and youngsters looked at us with curiosity. Well, I sacrificed a pair of panty hose that actually got us a couple miles (literally) further down the road. Amazing invention – yet they still run when snagged, a pity. Again we were on the side of the road next to a large wheat field. More buggies and frowns came our way. The strong August sun had no competition from any shade and we were hot, discouraged and very thristy. Temps were near 100 degrees. Would you believe a Mennonite family came out of their house to help and we informed them of our predicament. Their neighbor, also a Mennonite, owned a garage and helped my husband replace the belt while the lady invited us into an air conditioned house and pumped us with iced tea and popcorn. Sure, the Amish thought they made the right impression, but –

you can’t beat the impact you’ll have on a life if you meet a need.

Voluntarily.

We weren’t important, but that caring, Mennonite family, just by being themselves, made us feel important to them and that makes me feel small just thinking about it.

Enough for now. Watch later for more lessons I wished I had learned. BUT – what do you wish you had learned earlier?

The Lighter Side of Life

After the last week and a half (or after one refrigerator repair,car repair, artistic disillusionment,  dental visit, malfunctioning air conditioner and an expired hen) it is time for healing. Thank the Lord that He gave us the gift of laughter. This clip should remind many of us of the happier and maybe more carefree times in our lives. Enjoy!

 

Good and Bad Distractions

Okay! You’ve been there (I hope).  There’s been enough time passed since your last notable project you wonder if you’ll ever turn out another work of art.

So, while recuperating from a minor injury,  I enjoy surfing the blogs. It sure beats the time I spent this afternoon with a shotgun in hand trying to find the dog who keeps killing my poultry. No I didn’t find it – and for your information, if I do shoot it (with the animal control’s blessing), I will probably bawl from hurt and anger that the owner is so irresponsible as to let a hound roam.  So the computer time was a welcome diversion. The photo below made me think of my sister (who hears planes above her house ALL the time).

planes

It was posted on a blog I recently found called “Bored Panda” and some of the posts will more than floor you with the capabilities demonstrated by so many people. You need to check them out. You might want to start with the post on paper art – it’s not what you think!  http://www.boredpanda.com/paper-art/ It’s worth copying and pasting link – some are very remarkable.

I can blame the site Jerry’s Artarama for my diversion. I was checking out the semi-finalists to their self-portrait competition ( a very arty and natural thing for an artist to do) and this was posted:

Can you guess what origami artist Sipho Mabona is going to create from the folds in this 50ft x 50ft sheet of paper?

elephant origami

via BoredPanda See for yourself here: http://goo.gl/zfQCUC

Of course, I took the bait – but it was worth it.  Enjoy!

The Emotional Power of Color

There is something to be said of a Creator Who cares enough for our pleasure that He gave us the gift of our senses. They say the gift of smell has the most powerful ties to memory. Maybe. After all, I have wonderful memories that flood my mind when homemade bread, apple pies and other pastries stimulate my olfactory senses. And the TASTE! I have heard that the gift of hearing is the last thing to go when facing death. Touch can bring pain or comfort. But the gift of vision – what a gift! It is so complex that close to a third of our brain is devoted to it.

Untitled-Grayscale-01The emotional impact of color hit me surprisingly this morning. A sunrise this morning greeted me – beautiful, but I was struck by a memory of a 1963 Pontiac Catalina (or was it a Bonneville). When my dad brought it home, the first thing he did was open up the hood – but we were all impressed when he opened the trunk and sat in it with room to spare. A large family on vacation appreciates these points. The mafia would had treasured the roominess of it over resorting to a panel truck. But what hit me this morning was the memory of that deep, deep midnight blue. You know – the color of that blue-black stallion or the almost black suit that draws the viewer in. Detroit knew how to crank out beauties back then. The they knew how to use the baby blues and bubble gum pinks we see in the sky today. Looking at the cars today is very uninspiring.

blk & wh tree

Life Without Color

Now, using black & white photos is great when I’m checking my values on a difficult subject I’m drawing but- Can you image if we only saw in “black & white?” There would be no need for hair dyes and fabrics would stress pattern over color. TV’s would still be in black & white – let alone HDTV and HGTV would have a fourth of their audience when designers show landscapes in a spectrum of grays.  Function over beauty would be the dominant motivator in design and art would have a totally different focus. (This coming from a graphite artist! But even my eye can see the warmth and coolness of different “leads.”)

I mean, it’s as if you watch I Love Lucy for years and then find out, “She’s a beautiful redhead!” Even when I listen to music, it stirs images of color in my brain. Why is black so grim and domineering while greens are used for calming atmospheres?   It’s hard to imagine that color actually brings out emotional responses but they do.

The eye’s cones are a wonderful gift (I knew there was a reason I loved cones), and we are fortunate that we have cone receptors for red, green and blue; thus able to appreciate 7-10 million different colors! Dogs and some others animals have only two. A few have four and some see wave lengths we can’t – like bees. An interesting website on color is: http://www.colormatters.com/color-and-vision/look-inside-the-eye

butterfly treeSo, the next time you are enthralled by a sunset or captivated by the iridescence of an Indigo Bunting (bird) or butterfly, thank God for the ability to see color and ENJOY!

1-time for breakfast - Copy

How do You Know You’re Right?

Seeing art from the viewer’s eyes-
So, I’m painting a seascape – rather fun. I feel my blood pressure lowering with each stroke I apply. But I know not to rely on my immediate satisfaction. Sometimes in art I will view it upside down or in front of a mirror to CHANGE my PERSPECTIVE. The technique really is an eye opener and I find myself shortening the nose or moving the tree over. I found a website last week when I was looking for some equine inspiration. Horse Trainer Rick Gore has a page called “My Random Horse Thoughts” and the material in it is so mind compelling! (The link is:http://www.thinklikeahorse.org/Horse_thoughts.html)

I think this cartoon explains what I’m saying perfectly.

Everything is relative depending on who you are, what your background is, what your level of understanding is and what you believe to be true. Perception is reality. In the painting above the Rhino is only painting what he sees from his position. Others see what he is painting differently. Who is right?

Everything is relative depending on who you are, what your background is, what your level of understanding is and what you believe to be true. Perception is reality. In the painting above the Rhino is only painting what he sees from his position. Others see what he is painting differently. Who is right?

So – How Do You Know You’re Right?
What did you think 2013 would bring you? The same job? Same home? Same health? Same health care? So, we were wrong about a few things. You probably worried about what the year 2013 would bring. Did any of the worries come true? Maybe some did – a lost of job or decline of health, but you’re still here. You can let it get you down or surrender to what you think is a downward spiral of fortunes.

 

Perspective changes everything!
We all have been there. We see catastrophe all around us and a true friend will say to you, “It’s not as bad as you think.” Usually we find little comfort in those words, but then when we realize there are other tests to redeem our unpreparedness, other boy/girl friends to prove their faithfulness, and other chances for the body to heal and ways to cope with change – so – ah-ha! Life isn’t so bad after all!

 

There’s a song I use to sing as a child that adults sometimes forget –

 

“Why worry, when you can pray, trust Jesus, He’ll lead the way.
Don’t be a doubting Thomas, rest fully on God’s promise.
Why worry, worry, worry worry – when you can pray!”

 

The cartoon above stated perception is reality. But outside of what the artist renders as reality, that’s not often the case.  (If  it were true, car accidents would be rare, indeed!) Maybe if you and your friends can’t see the glass as half full, trust that God does (He probably sees the glass as FULL!) and He will care for you. Try seeing life from the Great Artist’s viewpoint.

John 10: 9  “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.   27  My sheep hear  my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:   28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

 

 

 

The Morab

Since I was a child I loved drawing and horses. I guess this combines the two.  In fact, the subject combines two breeds – the Arabian and Morgan, thus,  the Morab breed.  There are so many horse breeds out there and so many beautiful horses. There are probably a few ugly horses, too; however, their hearts are beautiful.  Not many animals have served us as faithfully as the dog and horse. Today the equine family generally is raised for pleasure.

The MorabThis blog is to introduce you to my artwork. So, check out the art pages.  I hope you enjoy and I’d appreciate your feedback.

Head study of a breed of horse having at least 25% of only the following two breeds – the legendary Arabian and the remarkable Morgan. Original graphite for sale, 10″ x 13″