Monthly Archives: June 2013

Red White and Blue won’t give you the “blues”!

Photography By Design1Photography By Design I have this obsession and it is to try to capture the flags’ stripes as they show them on our stamps. I’m pretty sure it is impossible.

In pursuing this effort, I have captured some pretty fabulous photos of flags in the wind. What I have learned is that one must spend lots of time taking many many pictures of flags to capture what I have here. (I must take 30 pictures when I am attempting this.) My favorite is the top one. But this series is also pretty spectacular, don’t you think?

If you ever get the shot of evenly scalloped stripes please send me a copy of it so I can stop this obsession at some point in my life. I do not believe it is real, because I have not come close yet!

Photography By Design2I have taken some other kinds of striped shots and think it is a fun theme to go for “Red, White and Blue” in your photography too. See what you can do with this as a theme. Here’s to stars and stripes, may they wave forever (and you should try this and see if you are better than me at it!).

The picture collages above are from a new book I am working on entitled ”Photography By Design”. It is an ongoing project as I carry my camera with me everyday and keep taking pictures to teach Slide2others. So one day, I will let you know when it is ready.


When taking shots of “pieces parts”, I generally take one Slide5vertical and one horizontal. Remember you are breaking up the space and when looking through a camera lens, you can see how much you want to show and make the composition work for you. Other than blue skies peeking through, notice that sometimes the shadows become the blue.

Slide2One of the design elements in many of my photos is “repeated shapes” in the picture plane. Even when painting, you’ll need to decide how much you want to show within the rectangular area and repeating shapes adds to your work.

Slide5Anything can become a photograph if you know how to create a good composition!

Slide3It is nice to have a theme and I have several favorite ones and get excited when I see how I can create a photo using them.

Some photos are just simple and others more complex, but having something to shoot for often gives great results. Here are a few that I just love. Slide1

This one of my granddaughter by the stained glass window is called “Raisins?”  and it won an award in an art show.

You never know when and where your “prize” shot will happen. Just go out and take pictures. If you get some good ones this Fourth of July, send it to me for a critique!Slide2Slide3Slide1

Senior prom 4 senior citizens- the “Under the Sea” Ball

Slide1The theme, “Under the Sea” led me to create a room that started with the idea that there had to be things hanging from the ceiling to make it look like you were in the ocean. The centerpieces were my beginning point, as I had found these glittery paper bags (like Chinese take out boxes) on sale at Michaels and then filled them with fish stickers on long wires and Easter grass and balloon weights.


The octopus had a numbered wine bottle in each arm (with messages in them like “Show me your pirate booty!” or “Use your mussels when standing.”, or “Just for the halibut!”). The people whose raffle ticket was drawn could either pick a bottle or “go fish” as we had a fish bowl full of little plastic numbered fishes. It was a fun way to distribute the prizes my daughter procured from various senior residence centers and various other places, like Sea World and the Birch Aquarium.

Slide2The big murals were painted with acrylic paints on the backs of recycled poster banners from past JCC events. I created the large cut out hanging fish on foam core board and strung them with nylon fishing wire. (I wanted to put a fan in the room to make the seaweed crepe paper sway, but we never got that far).


Slide3This was a huge undertaking and the volunteers who helped hang everything were so fabulous. We even did the hallway entrance so people felt like they were diving into the ocean as they came in through the crepe paper seaweed we hung in the doorway. As people walked in they all were overwhelmed with the ambiance of the room. It was truly spectacular and I have no idea how I will top this next year!

Across the back wall, we projected mini videos that I created in various aquariums around the country. At the Denver Aquarium last week, I even accidentally captured two mermaids doing an underwater ballet and surprised everyone. Also captured from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, were jellyfish and from the Birch Aquarium the sea-horse movies were very special also.

Slide2Not to brag too much, I even made the food. The salmon mousse and the tomato basil mousse made in fish molds, went over swimmingly with the participants. The fruit watermelon basket, chocolate cupcakes & cookies, along with “fish food” snacks (don’t ask) on the tables, and my “jellyfish” Jello mold – green key lime (coconut and pineapple) surrounded by little green (caviar) grapes with a black olive eyeball were all delicious and tasty morsels.

My daughter, sister and husband along with my 99 11/12 Mom came for the dancing and she even told a joke at the mike. Mike on the mike was our Dj and everyone had a ball at the Under the Sea Ball.

Rockin’ in the Rockies (Mountains that is!)

IMG_0413Just outside of Denver, CO. from two miles high (at Estes National Park), we sat in wonder, watching Mother Nature’s amazing display of sites that took our breath away (literally, high altitudes tire you out!).

The most amazing thing we witnessed was a herd of about 20 elks. They were just lazily lying around and grazing away when all of a sudden, I saw two males sniffing the air.

From a previous experience, I knew that this gesture meant “something” was going to happen. I looked around and saw little kids there and got embarrassed because when the male does that, he is finding out which female was “ready” to party! Slide2

BUT- instead, the two males started butting their heads in an upright stance, chasing each other! This “rutting” and butting went on for several minutes, almost like a well-coordinated balletic dance as they pranced up in the air. I was totally in awe of the situation and got these photos without shaking the camera as I was that excited.

Slide1The next fabulously wonder was when we saw these little chipmunks scattering in and around the rocks down this cliff. I noticed this young girl sitting on the ledge with her hand out. A chipmunk came right up to her and took a peanut from her hand. Her grandma gave me permission to use these pictures of Ms Brave Kiera. She immediately stood on the wall and tried to walk it as we yelled at her in horror not to do that.  The birds were marvelous and even the people fun to watch.  Slide3

If you get to Denver, the 1 1/2 hour drive was well worth it. We also visited the Art Museum, the Children’s Museum and the Denver Aquarium. These three places were marvelous and I would recommend them to anyone.

(FYI - you need a kid to get into the Slide2Children’s Museum or they won’t let you in! Being a past educational supervisor to the Cleveland Children’s Museum, I got a special private guided tour.) We left the Denver airport before a tornado touched the runway and closed the airport down! Friends who had not gotten out before said they were taken to a special room and others went to the bathrooms during the storm.Slide3

While at the aquarium, I had my video on because we are having an Under the Sea Ball for Senior Citizens in San Diego this Sunday. As I was shooting, two gals dressed as mermaids came swimming into the large tank of sting rays. I got their entire show to surprise everyone with because my plan is to project it onto the back wall of the room. My next blog will be of the decorations I painted and created for this event. I am so excited to put it all together because I have been working on it for several months.


Tips on decisions we make while painting – for Beginners

IMG_6352Painters usually start with a white flat piece of paper which can be a challenge, but knowing some tricks of composition, color and space can help you to create better paintings. Experience will help you make those quicker so practice making the mistakes and you’ll see where you need to go with your work.

IMG_7598I overheard the word “decision” while at a paint out  and realized that we make these the entire time we paint. Each time we paint, we look at things differently. Ask questions like “How much do you leave out of a scene? What should go off the page? Where shall I repeat a color? How big do I want to make the other subjects within the piece?”

Painting1Often when painting horizontal waves or grassy areas, we create stripes as sometimes they just become the same width and length. Vary these and try not to create them, also in the trees or even vertical windows or plants.

Variety in the shapes of sections and colors and sizes is what makes your work more interesting.

IMG_7697A center of interest is what makes a painting or a photo worth looking at. We went over the “Rule of Thirds,” so that is number Uno in finding that sweet spot.


A good decision is to use odd numbers of anything. (Two trees, two flowers, two teacups make for a ping-pong effect with your eyes.)  Centering objects is sometimes not visually pleasing. By placing strong light or things in uneven amounts, you get better results. Try pairing off a few things to one side and another across from those to form a visual triangle, will help your eye move around the picture. Watch for evenly space objects too.

paintinI like to do buildings from an angle because the windows are not the same sizes. They get smaller, shorter, closer, less detailed as you go back. Repeating colors in a triangle will also enhance your piece. Red in the building and a bit of red in the shadows of leaves plus a person in a red striped shirt will create a triangle of color. Try not to center anything, place important objects off to the side (Rule of Thirds) so they are not targets!

When I begin a painting, I put in the sky first. It is blue and a teacher once reminded us that greens are made of blue and yellow, so anything you put on top of the blue sky will look good. If your sky is red though, you will get gray trees because it is the complementary color and that is what happens.

Put red washes in your greens and green shadows in your reds and you will see some astonishing results.

Rainy Days and Mondays, do not get us down!

Slide1Well, who said you can’t picnic in the rain? The shelter was perfect, we ate and talked and had a ball, and then….

Slide4we painted! This was a combination of the Cleveland Plein Air Painters and the Hillcrest Art Guild.

Slide2Planning a picnic was one thing, finding out it was going to rain on and off all day, was a surprise.

Slide3But we made it and when we left, the sun came out, surprise, surprise! What a wonderful day we all had.

(Click on the collage pictures above to enlarge them, then use the left arrow on top to go back)

Expose youngsters to use their imagination to become a creative person

creativity2Having taught for many years, I see how adults can stifle a child’s imagination with all the so-called educational products and things out there today. Disneyland is not reality, neither are the princesses, fairies, Spiderman and Yugio.  Plus, pre-cut and Xeroxed copies called art projects, do not teach anything. One cannot mention this enough, but it is the “process not the product” that is essential when exposing young children to anything, including painting and other art forms.

Coloring books teach children that they cannot draw as well the adult whom drew the piece and are futile in the process of learning how to use materials and create something yourself. When a child asks you to draw, tell him to describe what he thinks it looks like. Let’s take a “dog” for example. Ask: “What kind of dog, a Labrador retriever or a Poodle? Long legs or short? (Fluffy tail, big ears, brown, black or white?)” By doing this, you are giving him the chance to see choices and differences. You could add, “Oh my! It’s a good thing you have your own ideas, because I would have drawn something different from what you have described.”
Slide2Describing is the key! (Check out my poem “All By Myself” in an earlier blog 3/16/13 during National painting week.) I learned this from attending many Early Childhood Education workshops. So when they hand you a “mini-masterpiece” describe what you observed. Instead of saying “look at the cow you drew!” tell them what you see:  “red yarn, blue lines, big splashes of color!” If a child leaves an empty place on half the paper, tell her what you noticed that was already completed. State “You did such a good job here, what do you have planned for over there?”

Try to vary things so they do not always have rectangular paper, or the same thickness of paint. Teach them colors and show them textures. I used to have “green day” and the art project was a large green triangle and a pile of little textured papers and things they could tear or I had cutout so they could glue them on the larger piece. They made the decisions of where each piece would fit within that shape. Color, shape, space, and texture are design elements, pasting is an art form.

I went to a workshop once that appalled me. It was “Art Through the Seasons” and everyone was taking furiously taking notes. The instructor was demonstrating an “apple” theme for Fall. First she had the kids paint an already drawn circle on the easel, using red paint. Then she had them glue one red circle and a green leaf on 8 x 11 paper. If that wasn’t enough, she pre-cut out  a large green circle, small red circles, and a brown rectangle and said the children should glue these together (she showed them how) to make an apple tree.Slide1

If you want to teach apples, what about cutting them up and making applesauce or cooking apple pancakes or fritters, roll out dough and make apple tarts? How about tasting a variety of apples? I remember another workshop on showing a picture verses actual hands-on tasting and cutting up apples where the teacher made a list as the children described what they experienced; shiny, roundish, yellow and green, juicy, smells sweet, rotten spot, etc. On the picture list it was just “red, shiny and circle”. What about introducing making healthy food choices and incorporate that concept into their curriculum here?

Take it farther, help them make fruit-ka-bobs and have a healthy snack. I wrote a song “Pack A Snack” and in it we go through the alphabet in foods. Being a memory game, I add four at a time and repeat the chorus. Because of my Crazy Daze CD, I had young kids who knew my songs and they would come on stage and sing with me at the Cleveland Children’s Museum. “Apples, bananas, cupcakes donuts!” One women at one of my workshops through OAEYC (Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children) said would have to change the words to make it healthier! Oh well, the point is that when working with children, there are many different ways to teach them. Interlacing science, art and math/music through various modalities (senses and physical awareness) goes a lot farther than showing pictures, playing computer games, repetitive rap songs or telling kids things.

Slide3My biggest pet peeve is using technology too early today. Between the TV, videos, digital game units, computers, Ipads, Kindles and cell phones, the screens are zapping the imagination out of young minds.

I know a 6-year-old who said he didn’t want to learn how to write because everything looked better from the computer. Reading screens is also an issue as I have noticed kids banging on the keyboard to get to the next game instead of being responsible for the work and completing one thing before running to the next level. Instant gratification is what drives them today and in art, we know it takes time and good decisions, not to mention skill development for a lifetime.

So my recommendation is going to the library and get books. Look up things on the computer, not let them play addictive games. Social media are enabling them to become very anti-social, so what is the point of helping them learn how to get along and what they can contribute to this world? Creativity and having a good imagination as well as a global outlook are what we need to share with this generation who are learning how to be self-centered. Just read Facebook pages and see what is on the minds of kids today.

Shopping is not a career without holding down a job! At least let them use cash and learn math while they are becoming addictive to everything new. Teaching through rapping is an annoying way to teach subjects to them also. Any kid today can spout the lyrics of often inappropriate songs, but cannot remember things for a test that they are being taught the answers so the school will look good on paper! Slide4

I know I am on my soapbox, but if you want to have creative kids, you have to expose them to creative things!

I have discovered that successful adults found their vocational interest early in life, around age 7 in fact. So go forth and multiply and give your kids creative genes instead of designer jeans!

A Monday morning with the Cleveland Plein Air Painters

monday paintersWell, Sharon’s garden was in full bloom and she was even handing out plants for us to take home. Now I have to dig some holes and get them in the ground so I can paint them next year (hopefully, I really do not have much of a green thumb, unless I am painting!!)

Her irises were gorgeous so I did an acrylic of her purple and maroon ones.  We were happy to have Joseph join us today doing a marvelous pastel. I think he played hookey from work but I may be wrong! And Mary left early after doing a very nice oil painting. Vernica did the marvelous watercolor of the white blooms in front of Sharon’s house. And Roz did a tiny little watercolor pencil piece because she came late. Suzanne did one on Yupo paper and Sharon did her house. Betty wasn’t crazy about her piece today and the other Betty didn’t come today. Another Mary took some photos

We also had homemade strawberry shortcake after we worked. Thanks Sharon for your wonderful hospitality (and yummies!) and have a great trip!


IMG_0155When I got home, I set up  my easels on my newly put together outdoor art studio. We placed the slabs on our front porch and created a new patio! Two easels fit wonderfully and as long as it doesn’t rain, I am a happy camper. I just go across the street to my neighbors terrific flower garden and draw the ones I want to do.

(Click on pictures to enlarge them, use left arrow to go back.)