Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Creating Advent Traditions

Advent is probably my favourite time of the year. I didn’t grow up with any advent traditions (other than perhaps a chocolate calendar), but they have evolved in our own family as we have worked to focus our attention on “the reason for the season” in our commercialized society. There are so many creative ideas out there, and most of our traditions have stemmed from ideas we found online or through other people. So, as I write about our family traditions in hopes of inspiring you to create your own, please know that few, if any, of these ideas are original ;)

Advent Books:

There are many quality advent books out there, and we have a whole slew of them. But when our oldest children were about 5 and 6, we were introduced to a trilogy of advent stories by Arnold Ytreeide that have become fixtures in our life. Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, and Bartholomew’s Passage are fictional adventure stories that use the experiences of three children to remind readers of the hope, peace, and joy brought by faith in Christ – not just at Christmas, but throughout our lives. Each chapter ends with an exciting cliff-hanger, and a commentary about how the events of the story correspond to our own lives. Scripture passages also point our attention to the biblical perspective of the season we celebrate. These stories (which can be scary at times, so be forewarned!) have become so ingrained in our family’s traditions that when we tried using something else for our evening readings last year, we all felt something was missing and didn’t even end up finishing the new book we tried.

Part of our enjoyment of these stories comes from the rituals we have established around our reading time. As suggested by the book, we incorporate the lighting of traditional advent candles (three purple, one pink, and one white) using a special pewter advent wreath we acquired at an after-Christmas sale.

Each of the children also has a votive candle in a decorative holder that is used to provide light for the reading, and which they may take to their room to fall asleep by when the reading is done. But perhaps most enjoyable for all is the chocolate fondue we have each Sunday of advent during our evening reading of Ytreeide’s books! There’s nothing like yummy food to create wonderful memories!

Jesse Tree:

Another tradition we have developed is the use of the Jesse Tree. A quick Google search of this name provides a number of descriptions and explanations, one of the loveliest being that of Ann Voskamp at Holy Experience, who has written her own book about it. The outline of symbols and scriptures we have used for the last several years is found here. Over time, we have made many of our own ornaments to suit the symbols, or collected pre-made ones that represent the depicted concepts.

Coat of Many Colours (Joseph)

Stone Tablets (The Ten Commandments)
Dark Sky with Stars (Promise to Abraham)

Dove (Creation)

Tongs with Hot Coal (Isaiah)
In the past, we have incorporated this tradition into our school day as part of our morning devotions, but this year we’re going to try doing it as a family at supper time -- if nothing more than to be able to enjoy the lit tree in a darkened room! (That part didn’t work so well in our sunlit learning lab.) 

 I confess that I sometimes struggle with explaining the significance of some of the symbols in relation to the Christmas story, so one of my creative ambitions is to one day write my own advent story about the Jesse Tree so that the connections are clearly conveyed. Stay tuned – but be prepared to wait a long while! ;) In the meantime -- I've just discovered that Ann Voskamp is offering her e-book free -- so that's what we'll be using this year! Do check it out for yourself! (It includes lovely paper ornaments that can be printed and laminated, so you don't have to worry about finding ornaments at the last minute if you wish to start this year.)
Surprise Boxes:

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, so a few years ago when I came upon someone’s idea of creating surprise boxes to incorporate biblical concepts while counting down to Christmas (I'm afraid I can't find the source), I decided to build it into our school day during advent. We started our tradition using matchboxes decorated with Christmas paper, but last year I “upgraded” to some little bamboo boxes from the dollar store that provide a little more space for our treasures.

Somewhat like the Jesse Tree, symbols are used to relate a concept about Christ’s power in our lives today. But these symbols are special treats that can be consumed, used, or treasured by the children. For example, a glue stick is used to accompany a reading of Colossians 1:16-17 and illustrate that Christ is the “glue” that holds us and the world together. (We also watch Louie Giglio’s video clip about laminin – a powerful illustration!) Or little packets of salt are used to illustrate Matthew 5:14 and Colossians 4:6. Just so my children don’t become bored with the same old “surprises,” each year I challenge myself to come up with some new "treats" to illustrate the various truths about the significance of Christ’s coming, and his power in our lives today.

If you haven't created any advent traditions with your family, my hope is that this post might inspire you to do so! And if you have -- please tell me about them! Leave a comment and/or a link below!

I shared this post here:
The Humbled Homemaker:
Desiring Virtue

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Art Every Day Month - Scribbly Drawings

Not much to show this morning -- just some "Scribbly Drawings" from Lab 24 of Drawing Lab. I quite like my puppy pic, and appreciated his co-operation in the endeavour ;) (I did have to make him lie down again when he got up half way through my sketch!)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Art Every Day Month - Index Card Multiples

Last night before bed I hadn't done any art for the day, so I decided to do a quick run of Drawing Lab 6, which was to draw 20 or so quick pictures of the same dog using a chisel tip marker. Here are the results, randomly numbered:

Carla Sonheim's examples are so simple, and make the lesson look so easy. Alas, I did not find it easy, and do not like the results. Number 11 is cute, but it's a copy from the book that came as a last ditch attempt to draw something that looked remotely like a cute dog. Other than that, numbers 2 and 12 are the only ones that show any potential in my mind. But it was just a quick exercise, so I won't be too hard on myself ;)

What creative endeavours do you have to give yourself a break about?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Art Every Day Month -- Hope Painting

This was my most ambitious "art" project yet -- not because it's major -- but because it doesn't play to any of my strengths and it's a larger canvas than I usually use.

Nothing against Anne Geddes, but when I saw this picture in the neighbour's "free" pile, I knew that it needed to make its way into our art room to be repurposed . . .

Quite honestly, I didn't expect it to get used quite so soon because, well, we're hoarders when it comes to art supplies, especially things that "could" be used for something else.

I'll say right off the bat that while this image formed in my mind as I travelled downtown last night, I know it was influenced by the work of others. Over the last few months, I've seen a number of tree images that show both the roots and the branches. That concept speaks to me (I'll explain my own use of it below). I have also been very drawn to Leah Piken Kolidas's work , especially her lovely ladies, and I have been tempted to try to imitate one of them. However, I deliberately did not look at anyone else's work before I started this piece; I just came home and started painting and collaging -- and finished at 1:00 a.m.!

This photo shows truer colours, though the flash wrecks the centre of the painting. I wish you could see the sparkles in the snow! (DD8 is not the only one who loves that diamond dust!)

I'm calling this piece "HOPE" and had actually planned to incorporate the word with some repurposed sign letters, but I decided I didn't like the look of them. (I may still stamp the word somewhere.) While I did not intend for this woman to be a tree, the tree is associated with her spirit in the sense that it reaches up to the heavens, but also extends into the earth, rooted and grounded. To personalize it, as my soul (mind, will, and emotions) seeks God, entrusting Him with my heart, I am rooted in His Hope. Sometimes Hope is buried, and even frozen for a time -- but it is there, strong and supportive nonetheless.

I'm not sure if this piece is finished. I wonder if my lady needs some outlining and some more gradations of colour on her dress. And does she need a nose and mouth? (If so, how do I do them?!?!?)

Your feedback is more than welcome!!!!!

Lego Rock Band

DS11 denies that he is a Lego master, in spite of his sister's insistance that he is -- but those of us who observe his creations are pretty impressed by his devotion and attention to details. (Now why doesn't this attention to detail carry over to, say, his cleaning skills?????) Here is his latest creation -- a Lego "rock band":

The (menacing) band -- and friendly videographer:

The adoring crowd:

I know -- I should have taken the picture with the light behind me instead of them -- but you get the idea:)

Have your children created anything interesting with Lego? I'm sure DS11 would be keen to glean some new ideas ;)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Art Every Day Month - sculptures

A couple of weeks ago I showed you the wire and papier mache sculptures I began with two of my DC. Well, we finished them today . . .

For some reason, it surprised me a bit that the wire rusted as the glue dried. I sort of liked the look:

But I decided to go with my original plan of painting mine black and then brushing it with a bronze glaze. Both DC thought they preferred to paint theirs with colours, so they primed their sculptures with gesso lest the rust show through the paint:

This is what I used to glaze my sculpture:

Here is DD8's finished sculpture -- though you can't really see the diamond dust she showered it with:

As he saw my sculpture progress, DS11 decided he liked the look, and went with the black and bronze:

And here is my lady. I decided she needed some celebratory ribbons to be waving as she sang her praises to the Lord:

While I kind of wish I'd covered the wire completely, I'm happy with the results of our labours!

Are there any creative endeavours of yours that you've accomplished lately that please you?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Art Every Day Month

The last few days have not been conducive to creating art because I've been in transit so much -- but I have been enjoying some library books about art :) And tonight I had 90 minutes to sit and be creative with some of my mobile supplies (as I waited for children at Awana) -- so here's what I did . . .

The first is a rather random, quirky collage a la Claudine Hellmuth. I couldn't find a suitable woman's head in my limited, portable stash, so this cow's head caught my eye. You probably can't see it too well (even though I highlighted it in pink), but her chin is very hairy -- and that reminded me of the joke my DH made the other day about the hairs on my chin. Her ears are also very hairy (also highlighted in pink), and that reminded my of DH's latest lament about his aging process -- so in general, this cow head made me chuckle. The page I used for her dress brought to mind one of the art books I perused from the library -- Al*pha*bet*i*ca , in which a group of artists explores letters and numbers in an art swap. And since my goal was to complete the Altered Book Yahoo Group's November challenge to use fall colours and elements, I tried to incorporate just that -- though it's rather forced. I started with a background I made a while ago for The Artistic Mother projects, and I wanted to remember that I began with a pizza flyer -- so that's why you see that random bit of pizza pricing at the top left. Oh -- and her arms are made using the eyes of a gorilla!

When I finished with Miss Mooo, I moved on to try an idea that one person reminded me of in a comment here recently -- applying pastels to sandpaper. All I could think of to do was a leaf, so here it is:             

I still had a bit of time left, so I deceded to colour an image transfer I'd done several months back for another AB challenge. I used watercolour pencils and applied water after I'd coloured. Perhaps this little guy will find a place in a collage one of these days.

I'm loving, loving, loving all this artsyness! (Susie F. -- you must come play with me one Wednesday while we wait!) There's lots of writing I should be doing these days, too (DH is being particularly encouraging of that -- for the benefit of myself and others) -- but there just aren't enough hours in the day!

Do you have any quick art ideas that you find both fun and fruitful? I'm always looking for new ideas to make use of those few minutes I can find here and there -- even though my preference would be spending hours on end in the art room!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Art Every Day Month

I mentioned that I had done another doodle while riding in the car over the weekend . . .

It's hard to draw while being bounced on a bumpy road, but I had this concept in my brain that I wanted to try on paper. So I drew and coloured the whole thing with water colour pencils while in the car, and then I painted with water and outlined in black marker when I got home:

 My drawing was inspired somewhat by an artist from the Yukon whose work I'd seen a few pieces of on the weekend. It might have been Heidi Hehn, but I'm not sure. (When I find out for sure, I'll edit this post!) What struck me about her work was the swirls and defined lines that separated colours. I'm hoping that you can see the sky, forest, and water in my piece :)

While I was applying the water to my drawing, DD8 asked if she could join me. Apparently she was inspired by my work, so this is what she created:

Have you been inspired by anyone's work lately?

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Beginning to Look A [Little MORE] Like Christmas

My creative endeavours today have focused on pulling a few more things out for Christmas . . .

The garland over the sliding doors in the kitchen:

One nativity set that we've had for many years:

The garland on the stairs in the foyer:

The nativity set we received from a generous freecycler last year:

The village (which DD13 set up) a few days ago:

And the garland on the half wall between our dining room and living room:

Are you getting into the Christmas spirit yet?

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