I paint dogs.

Well, I don’t paint the dogs, I paint pictures of dogs.

I was six or seven when I saw an advertisement for a drawing contest in the back of the TV guide. A cartoon-like sketch of a dog was the subject aspiring artists were encouraged to copy and then mail in for evaluation. The prize-perhaps it was a monetary award and/or the promise of entry into art school or maybe a lifetime supply of bubblegum! I don’t remember, but I was excited to have successfully copied the drawing. I showed my work to my ever encouraging big brother and he said, at the very least, I would receive a certificate. So, we mailed in my drawing.

I never heard from those contest people, not even to get a funky little certificate.

In the years following, whenever I came across a similar advertisement for an art contest I ignored it. Even when the cartoon-like dog was replaced by a horse, I simply turned the page …

Fortunately the contest experience didn’t squash my desire to draw. Drawing came so easily, I thought it was something everyone could do.

I went to school and became a graphic artist. I worked with printers designing custom invitations and business cards. I loved the challenge of creating illustrations that worked best in black and white and believed that the success of a logo design comes before adding color (I still do).

I had secret admiration for painters. Secret, because I didn’t understand the depth of my feelings. When I saw someone’s work or met someone who was a painter I’d think “that’s so cool”, but I never thought of it as something I could do. Graphite was my medium and I was okay with it. I didn’t recognize my own desire to paint until one summer about 15 years ago.

I was in a hotel lobby in St. Louis, Missouri reading an article about a computer graphic artist that grew to hate his career. “The computer robbed me”, he said, and I knew exactly what he meant. He chose to go back to something he once loved, painting. He changed directions, beginning a new career of hand painting signage on business fronts throughout St. Louis.

While reading that article, I was reminded of High School and my Home Economics class where I had to create a household budget based on a made up career. My career of choice was a sign painter.

I was inspired.

When I returned from that trip, I enrolled in a beginner painting class at an art school in Oakland. After a few semesters, I was encouraged by my instructor to join a small group of women who painted together on Friday mornings. I have been painting with these women, ever since.

Friday morning painters. It has been 15 years since I joined the group. A couple of the women have painted together over 25 years, some came after me, and a few (not pictured) have moved on to other adventures. Overall, it’s a solid group of talented ladies, who support, encourage and love each other.

I also paint cats, and people. Well, I don’t paint the cats …

Crayons.

Print

There is something exciting about a brand new box of crayons. Colorful, bright, clean and smelling of wax. Then somebody borrows one, tears the paper, dulls the end and breaks it….

At Bible Study this past week, we were asked to illustrate our perception of Glory. I immediately thought of that new box of crayons. A perfectly, sharpened, orderly, smudgeless box of colorful glory!

I have a memory of a playmate showing up with the Crayola Crayon box of 96 colors with its built in crayon sharpener! I was impressed and thought this added feature sure way to keep those crayons looking fresh. Unfortunately you had to peel back the paper on the crayon in order to sharpen it. Also sharpening a crayon makes it smaller. I finally accepted that if you use the crayon, it will never look new. Kind of like having cake and eating it too.

I had to re-think my bible study illustration. Perhaps Glory doesn’t have anything to do with perfection.

My crayons, no longer perfect, live in a plastic shoebox. They are broken, the wrappers are torn, smudged, unreadable or missing. They are the crayons that were used to give life to masterpieces created by my children and their friends. Each dulled colored stick of wax had a story to tell.

I think, like the crayon, we start out perfect. As we live, we leave marks on our canvas gradually creating our own masterpiece.

Adam and Eve were hanging out in paradise with only one rule to follow, Leave the apple alone. Although their world seemed perfect, they were still given the gift choice. A decision was made, and consequence ensued.

If perfection was the only expectation, why weren’t Adam and Eve simply destroyed and a new set (of humans) created? Instead, they were given an opportunity to live, grow and recreate outside of paradise. They were given life outside of the perfect environment. One can only exist in the womb, it isn’t until we are outside of the womb that we live.

Perhaps it is all as it should be.

Outside of the crayon box.

I am like the crayon, spreading color, my sharp edges are gone, I am broken, my wrapper is torn. My story is the markings on the canvas.

Perhaps Glory is when I can look back and say, I’m happy with my masterpiece.

Tchotchkes

IMG_0029

Tchotchke: pronounced (ˈCHäCHkə), Yiddish  –  A small object that is decorative rather than strictly functional; a trinket (Webster’s Dictionary). The Urban Dictionary defines Tchotchke as: A small piece of worthless crap.

Everyone has them. Little knickknacks hidden behind other knickknacks collecting dust. Perhaps they are kept in a box, maybe a secret treasure chest type box. Tucked away.

IMG_0025To an outsider it may look like a rock, but to me, it’s a gift my son gave me when he was three. I keep it in my purse.  A blue bird with a chip in it’s beak, was a gift from Edna Degraffenreid, a woman who worked with my mother. I was fourteen. I don’t remember packing or unpacking it, but it has moved with me and after 40 years, it still has a home on top of my dresser. I have three Murano glass frogs my mother-in-law brought back from Italy. There was a slight panic when I dropped one and broke its leg and a failed attempt at gluing. The sentiment remained intact.

IMG_0004When Uncle Winston passed away, a couple of the cousins and I packed up his house. One keepsake I took with me was a faux Limoges box shaped like a carrot. There’s a tiny white rabbit inside. Turns out, my sister was the one who gave it to him.

Inside the goodie bags at my daughter’s 5th birthday party, her guests found a tiny ballerina with a magnet at the base of its feet. The tiny mirror that came with it is also magnetic. Put them together and the ballerina dances. I want her to dance.  She spins and stops, spins and stops. She stares. In the end she performs a lovely adagio.

IMG_0005A tiny glass dolphin. A small glass bunny. A turtle, a pig, a teeny weeny rubber chicken. A long neck goose carved out of teak, a pIMG_0039encil sharpener shaped like a cannon from the Alamo. A minuscule teddy bear and blanket crocheted with vintage yarn. The craftsmanship of this little bear is amazing. I met the artist and admire her work, we belong to the same Artist Guild. The teddy bear wanted a ride on the bicycle after he saw the rubber chicken ride by.

Tchotchkes. Taking them down from the shelf is kinda like looking at old photographs. The memories come flooding in.

Mother's Day. My son's gift to me. A souvenir from Sea World.
Mother’s Day. A souvenir from Sea World. My son’s gift to me.

A handblown glass bunny. I found it at a toy store in Berkeley while shopping with my daughter when three.
Handblown glass bunny found at a toy store in Berkeley. My daughter was  four. A mommy daughter shopping date.

There's a glass straw inside of this coke can.
This belongs to my son. There’s a small straw inside (it’s broken).

Chickens, pigs, turtles. They are just cute.
They’re just cute.

The pig fits inside of the carrot!
The spotted pig fits inside of the carrot!

The world's tiniest rubber chicken taking a ride on a bike.
A tiny rubber chicken riding on a bike is pretty funny!