To Autumn, or, Little Girls with Apples

It dawned on me this morning as I opened an envelope from Fran B, one of my Love Notes pals, that we are nearly a month into the season, and I have not done any “odes to autumn” on the blog. Shocker, right?

I assure you, I have been soaking up the goodness of early autumn as much as I can–the milder temperatures, the gentle breezes, the random highlights [bright oranges, yellows, and reds] in the trees. Academic life during COVID-19 is a level of busy I have never, ever experienced, so it’s been a bit of a struggle getting to the blog, especially since I’m typically screen-weary to the point of tears–or madness.

The artwork featured on the card Fran sent is worth my risking my sanity.

“Cider Mill” (1880) by John George Brown. Oil on Canvas. Daniel J. Terra Collection.

Cider Mill by John George Brown (1831-1913) features five little girls feasting on scrumptious apples they’ve just picked outside a cider mill. It speaks volumes about girlhood, apples, and autumn. The art is part of the Daniel J. Terra Collection of the Terra Foundation for the Arts. [Click the links to learn more about the artist and the masterpiece].

This is a delightful piece of art, but it grabbed my heart because the intensity of and seriousness in the eyes of the little girl with the red bow remind me of my baby niece, Lu, whom you’ve seen on the blog before.

Don’t you think she would fit right in?

Oh, and there’s a bonus–the first stanza of John Keats’ “To Autumn” was beautifully imprinted on the back of the card! If you’ve been keeping up, you know that he’s my favorite British Romantic poet:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Oh, there was even more autumn goodness inside the envelope, but you’ll have to wait for that. 😉

Guest Post | “Hear Me Roar” by Liv Grace

Today’s guest post for our series on living Black in the United States was written by up-and-coming performance phenom, Liv Grace. Liv Grace graduated from high school a couple of weeks ago, and she is already making her mark in this world. In this post, she shares a little about her music journey and her song and music video, “Hear Me Roar,” which she wrote in protest  of police brutality and racial injustice in the USA. Be sure to watch the video. 


Yoooooo! My name is Liv Grace, and amongst many other things I am a singer, songwriter, and producer. I’ve always been a lover of music and the arts. I’ve loved making music, writing, and editing films since the day I found out my Nintendo 3DS had a video camera. I started writing poetry and fictional stories around the fifth grade. I’ve been singing in choirs since I was really young. I’ve harmonized on praise teams all throughout middle and high school, and I’ve been “belting it out” in school musicals for the past five years.

What I love most about music is its ability to bring people together and make them feel something. A simple melody has the power to make us feel a plethora of emotions and a lyric can help us see the world through someone else’s eyes. I’ve always loved the feeling I get when I listen to music and I like being able to give that feeling to others.

I’ve always been composing harmonies. I remember watching a video of young Ariana Grande when I was in middle school singing into a microphone connected to a guitar looping pedal, layering harmonies and singing over it. I was mesmerized, and immediately I knew I had to try it. Unfortunately, my middle school allowance was not large enough to purchase a professional guitar looper and trying to convince my parents to purchase a $100 guitar looper for me—a twelve-year-old with no guitar—was surprisingly difficult. I decided to do the next best thing and downloaded a free beatbox looping app on my phone. I picked a random song from my iTunes playlists, listened to it on repeat and recreated the instrumental with only my voice on loop. My obsession with arranging and recreating harmonies ran wild from there. I found myself recreating Broadway cast albums and singing all of the parts. I’d post small clips of me harmonizing with myself and singing covers on Instagram.

In my junior year of high school, I decided it was time to start creating my own music. This was daunting, yet exciting. Ironically, around that same time my dad, brother, and I stumbled across a space connected to the Hirshhorn Museum called ARTLAB+. That space literally changed my life. In fact, the only reason I actually completed my very first song was because I needed it to apply and audition for one of their arts programs. I was accepted, but didn’t go in with high hopes. I showed up, I sang it, and they loved it! It was at that moment that I realized this thing I’d been doing as a therapeutic hobby was something I was actually good at! I’ve been writing melodies, producing instrumentals, and composing harmonies ever since.

Liv Grace. Photo provided by the artist.

At the beginning of the shelter-in-place [to flatten the curve of COVID-19], there was a moment when nobody in the US knew what was going on or how to deal with it. My school extended our spring break while administrators and teachers worked on an action plan, so there was this huge chunk of time in which I was able to focus on things that made me happy. I’d started a music account on Instagram earlier in the year, but rarely posted on it due to lack of time. Now, I had what felt like all the time in the world!

Like many others, I began to use this surplus of time to focus on things that I genuinely enjoy and to learn new things. I finally had enough time to pour into one of my passions—music. I started actively posting on Instagram and from this the opportunity arose through ARTLAB+ to share my creative process as a teen artist in collaboration with the Nicholson Project, an artist residency program.

Liv Grace. Photo provided by the artist.

A couple days into the process [and after I’d written a song on mental health for the project], the video of George Floyd’s murder took over all forms of media. It wasn’t the first time I’d watched my people carelessly shoved to the ground by law enforcement. Every time a video comes across my feed, my heart aches, but watching George groan in pain as he yelled for his mother was the last straw. I knew I needed to use my gift to speak out. I decided my mental health song could wait and began writing “Hear Me Roar.”

When it comes to creating, I overthink everything. I spend hours writing and rewriting, trying to find the right drum pad or the perfect harmonies to accent, but with “Hear Me Roar” everything just flowed so organically. The song just came to me. The chorus popped into my head as I was soaking in a bubble bath. The next day I sat and wrote two verses, a pre-chorus, a chorus, and arranged backing vocals in one sitting.  The next day I produced the instrumental and just continued tweaking throughout the week until the song was finished. I let it breathe for a little bit, listened to it about a week later and called it a wrap.

The song was done, and I loved it.

A little after the song was finalized, I decided I wanted it to be released with a music video, so I grabbed my video camera and my dad’s mini projector and pushed my bed to the other side of my room. Over a couple days I filmed, directed, and produced the video.

“Hear Me Roar” is the song I needed to hear as we mourned the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all the other Black people who lost their lives to police brutality. I needed a song that would remind me no matter how hard anybody tries, they cannot silence my voice.

We often see the tragedies and the news and feel hopeless, like our voices don’t matter. But they do! Not only do they matter, our voices have the power to move mountains and make change in the world. My hope is that “Hear Me Roar” can remind people how powerful their roars are and that they should use them to speak out on issues that matter to them. Right now, we are in great need of change and if we use our individual and collective voices, we can make that happen!

“Hear Me Roar” is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Tidal, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, Youtube Music, Deezer, and Napster! It is also available to purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play Store. You can find links to all of these stores here:

A percentage of the proceeds from “Hear Me Roar” will be donated to the ARTLAB+ program.  Individuals involved in the program devote their lives to uplifting and amplifying the voices of young artists of color and provide us with equipment, professional guidance, and a loving environment to express ourselves in our own creative and unique ways. I want to help the program give the opportunities they’ve given to me to other young Black artists.

You can find me and more of what I’m up to here:

We need your voice to create change, so keep roaring!

Liv Grace. Photo provided by the artist.

Wild Silver!

How do you feel about another museum trip?

The Huntsville Museum of Art Buccellati: A Silver Menagerie is another must-see exhibit, and since you can’t be here, I’m bringing some of the pieces to you. I have fewer photographs than I had for last week’s visit showing of the American Studio Glass Exhibit, but the pieces are just as fascinating.

The exhibit features selections from the Museum’s permanent collection of  silver creations designed and fabricated in Italy by the luxury jewelry firm of Buccellati. They were donated by Betty Grisham of Huntsville, Alabama. According to the museum’s website, the Huntsville Museum of Art holds the world’s largest public collection of these unique works of art.

Each piece was designed by Italian jeweler, Gianmaria Buccellati.

Lion, 2000. 925 Sterling.

The present house of Buccellati was founded in 1919 in Milan, Italy and originated what is known as the Buccellati style, which combines Renaissance period techniques, luxury materials, and the extensive use of texture engraving to create objects of great beauty. This distinctive style won favor with a discriminating international clientele, including the Vatican as well as the Royal Houses of Italy, Spain, Belgium, England and Egypt. —Huntsville Museum of Art

Bear, 1997. 925 Sterling.

Gianmaria Buccellati carries on the family tradition today as an internationally renowned silversmith.  He has dedicated his life to creating extraordinary objects that exemplify fine Italian craftsmanship.  –Huntsville Museum of Art

Bear, 1997. 925 Sterling.

His signature silver animals replicate creatures from earth, sea, and sky in a highly realistic manner. Buccellati invented a new method of working in silver to capture fine detail like feathers, hair, or different types of skin, known as “lavorazione a pelo” or “hair-like workmanship.” —Huntsville Museum of Art

Giraffe, 1994. 800 Silver.

An animal reproduced “a pelo” is the result of welding countless silver filaments of varying length and thickness to give the actual appearance of the natural coat. It is a demanding method that requires the highest level of skill and an absolute mastery of soldering techniques. —Huntsville Museum of Art

Tortoise, 2006. 925 Silver.

Animals with the hair-like workmanship were originally produced in 800 silver, which is stronger but less pure than 925 sterling due to its higher alloy content. This was because the intense heat of soldering used in the creation of the animals would have melted the very thin filaments if they were sterling, but the Buccellati artisans were able to invent a new technique of soldering that allowed them to work within the heat tolerance of sterling silver. As a result, all animals produced since 1995 have been created in 925 sterling.  –Huntsville Museum of Art

Swan, 2000. 925 Silver.

Swan, 2000. 925 Silver.

Marine Centerpiece, 1997. 925 Sterling. Amethyst Geode.

I somehow missed photographing the flamingo, which, like the giraffe, is considered a highlight of the collection, but you can see it here on Flickr. [Tip: If you move backwards or forwards in the Flickr album, you’ll see other animals I did not photograph].

My favorites–you guessed it–are the lion and the bear. I just can’t wrap my mind around the exquisite crafting of the hair and fur! The giraffe is über cute and I’m intrigued by the sea creatures. The whole collection is mesmerizing–which is probably why I missed photographing some of the animals.

Do you have a favorite?

Summoned Mother | Tameka Cage Conley

All mothers were summoned, when George Floyd called out for his mother. —Rachel Costa

Every mother heard him. We heard George Floyd. We hear him. —Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo who was murdered by New York City police officers in 1999.

For today’s post on living Black in the United States, I invite you to view a three-part series presented by the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art. The project features Dr. Tameka Cage Conley, an artist I initially met many years ago when she was a student–an English major, of course. 😉 I am so very proud of her and her work.

The museum describes the “Summoned Mother” series as:

a memoir of a particular American motherhood: Black and uniquely precarious. This three-volume video series features Dr. Tameka Cage Conley, a literary artist and mother to a six-year-old Black boy, as she responds to George Floyd’s breathless call on motherhood. Conley juxtaposes the works of Elizabeth Catlett with those of contemporary Black poets, bridging the visual and literary arts in a meditation of Black artistry’s longstanding eye on injustice.

Dr. Tameka’s masterful weave of poetry, art, story, and song achingly reaches that primordial place in all mothers that compels us to protect, to rescue, to do something.

The project was spearheaded by Kwadwo Nnuro; the entire series is approximately 42 minutes in length.


About the image: The image that leads today’s post features a favorite photo of my son and me–modified for the post.

Other posts in the “Black Lives Matter” Monday series:

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.”

microblog