She Dances: Working on My Sway

“Flamenca Blanca”

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power; it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.  –Agnes De Mille

My friend Cy sent this amazing postcard a few weeks ago. She found this beauty in Madrid during her travels there. I fell in love with it. The lone woman dancing reminded me of my favorite part of Louis Delsarte’s mural “Spirit of Harlem.”

“Spirit of Harlem” [I was fortunate enough to be in residency at NYU the same time as the artist. Weeks after its unveiling, the whole group of “Scholars-in-Residence” took a trip to Harlem to see the mural].

I’m intrigued by these women who sway their hips without apology and dance solo in spaces obviously peopled by many. It seems the musicians—equally surrendered to their muses—play only for each woman.

I don’t have their gift. As part of the “rhythmless nation,” I’m not sure I will ever dance in public.

But—

I have been reaching for a metaphorical moment like this—of pure freedom—of yielding completely to the rhythms of life without fretting over consequences–“what ifs” or “therefores.”

I’m tuning in and working on my sway.

Holding on to Christmas

I thought about taking the Christmas decorations down today, but my not-so-little one convinced me to leave them up a little longer. I figured, if I take them down by Friday, I will still be about three months ahead of my normal schedule. 😀 .

Like my son, I’m having a little difficulty letting the Christmas season go. It took me a while to get in the spirit of things, but I’m not ready for the parts that I love so much to go away–unrushed mornings, Christmas movies, uninterrupted time with the guys, reading and writing, creating and crafting, and hours of contemplation without the nagging “things to do” list over my head.

I’m certainly not ready for the end of [receiving] über cute Christmas postcards from pen friends–like the card above.

My Love Notes pal and literary twin, Bianca, sent the sweet postcard featured. Immediately after retrieving it from the post office box–and before reading the message–I knew who sent it! Who else but Bianca would find in Germany a little girl with my skin color hugging a snowman? She always finds the perfect, most adorable cards that speak to some part of my identity, interests, or character.

The postcard was designed by Tanja Angermeier of Monimari, who creates “sustainable stationery for children’s hearts.” You can find more about Tanja’s work and Monimari by visiting her website. To get a steady diet of Monimari, you can also follow her on Instagram and even purchase some of the items in her Etsy shop.

Thankfully, even after the Christmas decorations have been stored and the last Christmas postcard has been received, we can still make the choice to carry the Christmas spirit with us all year. We can choose to walk with a spirit of love for humankind every single day. After all, that spirit is always in season.

Sunflowers and Copycats

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Watercolor by Sheila D.

Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery. –Charles Caleb Colton

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my artist/blogging friend Sheila Delgado should be tickled pink over the art Christine B and I created in the style of one of her specialities–“sunflowers in a vase.”

Last year, Christine B sent me a sunflower watercolor she “borrowed” Sheila’s style to complete. I included it in a blog post last November with many other sunflower postcards, but here it is again:

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Watercolor by Christine B.

Days after the post, I received a Sheila D original watercolor of sunflowers in a vase [above]! Needless to say I was thrilled! I was so pleased to have another sunflower watercolor that it remained [with Christine’s] in my prayer and mediation space. So, a few months ago, when I began to include art/doodling as part of my daily routine and after seeing it every day, I played around with imitating Sheila’s sunflowers in a vase. This is one result:

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Pen and Pencil by Me!

Thankfully, my sunflowers have improved a bit since my summer doodle [I’ll share some next month]. Like all my drawings, I used ink and colored pencils. I haven’t been brave enough to attempt this with the watercolor pencils, but I will make an effort over the longer holiday break.

I read somewhere that beginning artists learn by imitating the styles of other artists. Even though I’m a long way from being that kind of artist, I enjoy testing my [minimal] skills from time to time by “copying” the artwork of others.

So…thank you, Sheila, for giving me sunflowers…and another subject to doodle. 😉

Children’s Book Illustration Postcards | Gumnut and Wattle Babies

I hope you’re prepared for some super cuteness this evening. The postcards below were sent for Children’s Book Illustration swaps 49 and 50 on swap-bot. I had never heard of “Gumnut” or “Wattle” Babies, and then suddenly I was introduced to them when not one or two, but three postcards featuring May Gibbs’ Australian Bush Babies made it to my mailbox within days of each other.

CBI 50: Original watercolor for The Gum Blossom Ballet from Snuggle Pot and Cuddlepie, 1918. Illustration by May Gibbs (1877-1969)

This first card came from Yvonne and Jeana, who sent the Bunyip and Magic Pudding Maxicards I shared earlier this year. The card features the “Gum Blossom Ballet,” from the book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are:

two adventurous little gumnut foster brothers who long to see a Human. Snugglepot, the leader, and the gentle Cuddlepie are good friends with Mr Lizard and Little Ragged Blossom and together go on many heroic adventures.

And what are gumnuts?

[Gumnuts are] the first of the bush babies, the inquisitive Nuts are full of fun and mischief. They love all the Bush Folk, but are a little afraid of lizards and snakes. Mrs Kookaburra is most fond of them as they make her laugh. In the hot sun they hang their heavy heads over the swaying leaves and sleep.  –from May Gibbs website

I “met” Jess, another Australian swapper, earlier this year. Like Yvonne and Jeana, she also adds unique postcards to my CBI collection. She sent two Wattle Babies postcards.

BLC CBI 49: Original watercolor for frontispiece of Wattle Babies, 1918. Illustration by May Gibbs

The cheerful Wattle Babies are the most good-natured of all the Bush Babies. Their bright yellow clothes brighten the bush on a Winter’s day. In Spring they love to go boating and swimming with their frog friends and have fun playing hide and seek with the baby birds. —-from May Gibbs website

BLC CBI 50: “Wattle Babies.” Illustration by May Gibbs

These are some pretty impressive watercolors!

Gibbs (1877-1969) was an English-Australian children’s author, illustrator, and cartoonist. She was best known for her “bush babies” or flower fairies. Her works have entertained the children of Australia for more than a century.

Gibbs willed her works to the Northcott Society and Cerebral Palsy Alliance. As a result she has helped thousands of children and their families. You can learn more about May Gibbs, her work, and charities here: May Gibbs.

See you tomorrow…

Blowing Kisses: Sculpting with Tyhara Rain

“Blowing Kisses.” Sculpture by Tyhara Rain, 2019

I thought I’d treat you today to the art vlog of my student, Tyhara Rain, talking about one of her latest art projects. I really, really, really love her interpretation of “Blowing Kisses.” It was a commissioned work, but the person decided not to purchase it because the price–though more than fair–was higher than expected.

The finished product is above, but here’s Ty talking all about the process.

You’ve seen Tyhara’s sculptures on Pics and Posts before: Sunflower Story: The Sacred Joy of Creating and A Written Word: A Small Thing. I hope she inspires you to create something this weekend.

Peace Reigns…

“Peace Reigns Over River.” Artist: Qiu Ying, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ink and color on silk.

Sacred hearts
Powered by love and above —
Energies of peace
Lily Wang

I received the postcard above a week or so ago and I have been seriously fascinated by it. According to the information provided on the postcard, this is only a part of Qiu Ying’s “Peace Reigns Over River.” That is difficult to imagine since the partial painting is filled with so many fine details and dozens upon dozens of stories. [Click the image twice for a closer look].

Qui Ying was a Chinese painter, one of four master artists of the Ming Dynasty. According to the brief biography on ArtNet, he “specialized in the gongbi technique, in which the brush was used to describe forms without flourish or expressive variation.” You can read more about Qui Ying here: China Online Museum.

The postcard was sent to me by my friend, Cy, who studies Chinese art and culture. In her message she pointed out some of the beautiful blessings of life, noting that though we are friends “in real life,” we have also been penpals for 30 years (Wow!): She writes:

Here’s to–photo walks during the day; beautiful scenes from nature; a new book by your favorite writer; being in your happy place; having your truths set you free; “liking” the love of your life; getting lost in a beautiful place; receiving mail from a penpal of 30 years.

To that we’ll add–the reign of peace and “sacred hearts” energized by “Love.”

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Art Mail and Watercolor Therapy

As I mentioned a month or so ago, I’ve been “doing art” to combat some of life’s stressors. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve been able to pull off. In fact, one of my friends loved my doodles and drawings so much that she chose one as her new logo. Wow–right?

Thanks to artist and blogger Deb Breton, I’ve now added watercolor to my daily art therapy sessions. She sent an art mail package that contained a set of 12 watercolor pencils, a 9×12 watercolor pad, and a print featuring “Birds on a Wire,” one of her first watercolors. Squeal!

I played with the pencils all weekend, familiarizing myself with the medium. I prefer a smaller canvas, so I cut the paper down to 4×6 and experimented with the watercolor pencils, ink, and regular colored pencils. Here’s a sampling of my weekend fun.

Trying out the pencils.

My first not so great background–which I tried to redeem with a doodled flower and a “feel good” quote.

A better background. I have plans to add a poem and doodles or a photo.

My third attempt at flowers. Same quote.

The “paintings” actually look better “in real life,” but they’re still far from perfect. Of course, perfection is not the point. In fact, it’s freeing to have less expectations, so I can continue to experiment and have fun without the pressure.

Before you go, be sure to click one of the links above and check out Deb’s “Birds on a Wire” and her other work. I’m always inspired by her creativity!

Thank you, Deb, for making my life a little more artful!

Woman | #WordlessWednesday

Ann Gardner, “Breathing,” 1996. Sand cast glass, silver leaf.

Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits.  –Ntozake Shange, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo


About the image: Today’s image features the artwork of sculptor Ann Gardner. The piece, entitled “Breathing,” is part of the American Studio Glass collection, on continuous view at the Huntsville Museum of Art. The sculpture is so fierce and feminine that I couldn’t resist pairing it with Shange’s words.

Acquainted with the Night: A Painting and a Poem

“A Yorkshire Lane in November 1873,” by John Atkinson Grimshaw

#ThursdayTreeLove | Recollections

Recollections, Watercolor by Wanda A

It is difficult to realize how great a part of all that is cheerful and delightful in the recollections of our own life is associated with trees. –Wilson Flagg

I realize the image above isn’t a “real” tree, but this tree is special to me. Wanda, my sophomore year college roommate and brilliant art major, painted and gave the tree to me as a gift at some point before we parted ways–she to an art school in New York, me to an internship in Maryland.

The inspiration for this watercolor was a young tree that grew outside of our first floor dorm room. We often sat in our room with the window open and gazed at this tree. When alone, we contemplated and meditated. When together, we people-watched and discussed the trials and triumphs of life and love with our favorite tree always in view.

I looked for the tree almost seven years ago when I first returned to the campus as a professor; unfortunately, it is no longer there. I don’t even have a photograph, so I’m grateful my roomie and friend immortalized the tree through her artwork.

Wanda informed me that her daughter [corrected] is headed to our alma mater this fall [gasp]! Hopefully, she’ll find a special tree and much that is cheerful and delightful.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.