In college, I took an art history class. A lot of my friends who were actually visual art majors (my husband included) saw art history as a necessary evil toward getting their degree, but wouldn't have elected to take the class by choice.
I, on the other hand, loved it.
To be fair, part of the reason might be that I stopped by the campus coffee shop before every art history class and therefore associate the subject with caramel macchiatos, plus the room was always dark and the seats were comfy and reclined. Still, I do think it was the subject matter more than anything else that won me over.
I've always been fascinated with art and art movements. I love the way, it never fails, that these artistic movements come as a response to secular changes happening in the day. You want to know why a historical group of artists suddenly started doing things a new way? Study their newspapers. It's all connected.
The artists themselves intrigue me, too, particularly the fact that like-minded musicians and painters and sculptors and actors whose names ended up in history books were actually not only contemporaries, but friends. My favorite example is Paris in the early 1900s, a place where artists congregated and fed off each other, and a time when exciting innovations were taking place in the arts. Composers, visual artists, authors, and poets all mixed and mingled, resulting in a virtual beehive of creative activity. Stravinsky rubbed shoulders with Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Jean Cocteau. The group wasn't without their tiffs and jealousies, of course, but ultimately, they were friends. They went to concerts and art galleries together. They'd get together at each other's homes and talk late into the night about art, music, literature.
And there's something quite crucial in that; don't overlook it. I would venture to say that part of the reason these artists changed the world with their art - that is to say, part of the reason their work was so excellent and influential, was because of the very friendships they kept, and their commitment to those friendships. They surrounded themselves with people who knew them well, who wouldn't let them get by with mediocrity, who laughed with them and ate with them and sharpened their senses.
This is interesting to me because, for one thing, artists don't always work well together, nor do they always get along with each other. Thus, many artists resort to being lone rangers. We artists excuse ourselves from the group with the defense that, "I'm different", "I'm misunderstood", or the ever popular justification, "I'm an introvert." And all these things may be true of a person. But that doesn't change the fact that, as I've only recently begun to discover, everyone needs a place to belong. A place to be heard. It is, without a doubt, essential.
A few months ago, I was really struggling over how to divide my limited free time between living in community with friends (which requires a good chunk of time) and continuing my art of creative writing (which, conflictingly, requires considerable stretches of time in solitude) .
I wish I could say that I found the perfect solution and that I was about to share it with you now. No such luck. What did happen, instead, was that I picked up a book entitled "Scribbling in the Sand," by Michael Card, and read the foreword by a man named Makoto Fujimura. If you aren't familiar with "Mako", as we fans of his like to call him, check out his bio here.
In this foreword, Mako speaks of "the call to community, the impoverished power that sets the soul free...", of words deeply woven into the fabric of creativity, and into the struggle of asking God to create that community around us.
Clearly, I thought, this is a man committed to both excellence in his art ( and the time which that demands), while also remaining firmly committed to living in a way that he is known by others and they are known by him. My next logical thought was, "I'll ask HIM how it's done!" And being somewhat impulsive about these sorts of things, I shot him off an email within the next five minutes.
To my great surprise and delight, he replied to me that very day - which is a big deal, because who replies to emails right away anymore? Plus, he's famous. And I'm not.
His words were just the encouragement I needed to hear at that point.
I don't know if any of you share my struggle between making time for both what you love to do and for deep, meaningful relationships. Perhaps not. But just in case, I'll share an excerpt from Mako's email to me, in hopes that it might provide encouragement to you, as well.
"I daily experience this tension between community and the necessity of solitude in creating. I will tell you that this is a tension that is inherent in life itself, and I do not know if I have solved it as of yet!
But, having admitted to this, I do find that both sides of experience lead to one another. Paradoxically, what the communal life needs the most is the experience of solitude; and what the creative life needs the most is the experience of community.
The monastic tradition (Franciscans and Benedictines included) have rich layers of tradition and wisdom that balance the two sides, the contemplative and communal, and we have much to learn from them.
The overlap between the experience of communal life and the creative life is love. Both require full orbed love (agape, philia and eros... and more) to simultaneously transcend the barriers and create boundaries. Love is our "bottom line" in our lives. In order to love well, we must begin to journey within and without - to borrow William Blake's phrase "withoutside." "
I love that.
We must begin to journey within and without. Withoutside.
Lately, I've been reading a lot of books that take place in the jungle. Strange perhaps, but I'm fascinated with it. Modern books, old out-of-print books, anything I can get my hands on.
This morning I finished the auto-biography of a guy named Bruce Olson, who, in the 1970s, at just 19 years old, set out alone into the South American jungle, convinced he was supposed to find and help the fabled Motilone tribe.
Today I also started a second auto-biography - this one written by a man named H.B.Garlock, who went to Africa in the 1920s to work with the jungle people there.
It's engrossing stuff, I'm telling you. Fierce tribes with strange and unsettling traditions, night calls of birds that at times sound like the cries of huge monsters, monkeys that chatter incessantly from the trees, yellow-eyed jaguars which carry off children in the night, fire chanting and drums and the constant threat of disease, fever, death...
But, in my search for more of these true, jungle narrative accounts to read, I came across this delightful surprise: a children's pop-up book, c. 1967, entitled The Jungle Race.
Not nearly as forbidding as the other jungle tales I've been reading, but just as enjoyable.
And the artwork! I love it.
It was illustrated by G. Seda and J. Pavlin, a Czechoslovakian duo who did a lot of pop-up books in the 1960s and 70s.
I love the colors and the simplicity of the forms.
Just mentioning the word conjures up images of autumn for me. I know, I know, these days you can buy apples at the grocery store year round (much like any other fruit), but you gotta admit, there's something incomparable about plucking a fat, shiny apple straight off its heavy branch, right around this time of year when they're at their peak, with that fresh crisp snap when you first bite into it, followed by that juicy softness that's both sweet and tart at once.
Your mouth is watering, isn't it?
For me, there's a kind of romance in apple-picking. It makes me nostalgic. Apple orchards make me want to wear long skirts and sweep my hair up into a messy bun. They make me want to write. I guess you could say they bring out the "Anne Shirley" in me. (Speaking of which, don't these paintings, created by artist Patti Banister, remind you of Anne of Green Gables? Picking apples with Catherine... then making an apple pie...)
Anyway, I always jump at the chance to visit an apple orchard, and I got my opportunity last weekend. Windy Hill, a local orchard and cider mill, held their annual apple festival, which a group of us try to attend every year.
It was awesome.
The apples were crisp, juicy, and filled the air with sweetness.
They had set up several wooden bins with multiple varieties for purchase, both red and green.
And of course there were apple goodies, too, like cider, apple butter, and caramel apples - of which you better believe we partook.
Stephen continued to enjoy his caramel apple even after he found a worm in it...
...although his wife Erica didn't quite share his sense of amnesty.
It was so much fun. There was entertainment, too.
In the form of music...
... cooking demonstrations...
... and farm animals.
(Notice the shirt.)
Yes, a good time was had by all.
And I was inspired to bake an apple pandowdy!
Let me know if you want the recipe!
(Comment box in the left tab bar.)
~Can you tell I'm trying to get you guys to use that thing?~
I'm not a huge fan of the holiday, but Charlie, the little boy I nanny, is so excited about Halloween he can hardly stand it. He's been asking me since August, "Is this the month with Halloween at the end?"
The other day, he said, "I'm going to be Jack the Ripper for Halloween."
"Oh yeah?" I responded, surprised.
"Yeah," he stated matter-of-factly. "He's supposed to get a lot of candy."
HA! You know he heard that from somebody at school. It's funny to me the way that kids reason things.
Well, in honor of Charlie and of all you who share his anticipation for October 31st, here's a little unfinished sketch from the Jake Page archives. It's not exactly scary, but, come on, it's Michael Jackson's "thriller"!
I think Jake should pull it out of the archives and finish it. Don't you?
I first noticed this "keep calm and carry on" print design on a rug in my CB2 catalog.
I liked it at the time, but since then, I've been seeing it everywhere - on mugs, t-shirts, bags, even bottles of fingernail polish.
What's the deal? Where did this thing come from?
Well, I did some research and, turns out, the poster was commissioned back before WWII by the British Government Ministry of Information. The crown at the top is, apparently, an iconic representation of King George VI's crown. However, - interesting tidbit - the poster was never officially issued. It remained unseen by the public until relatively recently when somebody found it in a random box at an auction. Now, it seems, the thing is making up for lost time.
Which is why it made me laugh today when I was browsing Etsy and came across this.
I feel as though I haven't blogged about anything particularly substantial or thought-provoking in a while, and I'd like to apologize and ask you all to hang in there with me. One of the realities of being a semi-regular correspondent with an audience returning day after day looking for something new from your pen is the fact that you will be writing during all the various states of the human experience. And today - actually, this entire previous week, has found me nearly debilitated by a nasty head cold. I've felt feeble and run down and have been largely unable to spend time in the company of friends, which has left me feeling much like poor Piglet in this illustration here.
But don't fret for me, friends. Never fear. For everything there is a season. The day approaches when I shall be rid of this nasty cold of mine and shall again awe and inspire you with riveting pictures and prose.
(Until then, you should really make comments in the box to the left. I love feedback!)
A few days ago when I mentioned that Jake and I would be selling his bird illustrations as coasters, many of you expressed interest. Well... that interest motivated us to actually finish making the things, and here they are! I must say, they came out looking very classy. I would totally share my day's first cup of coffee with these merry minstrels of the morn. :)
If you'd like to buy a set (or just check them out in more detail), head on over to our brand spankin' new Etsy store, The Page Shop. You'll probably notice the store is pretty bare right now, but we are working hard on several more projects that we'll add to our "for-sale" items soon. So stay tuned!
It has come to my attention that there's some kind of kink in the html code for my comment boxes. These were the comment boxes at the foot of every post, which said, "Penny for your thoughts?" Yeah, apparently there was a problem with those working correctly.
I wondered why not a soul had commented on anything, lol!
Not to worry, though. I'm working on the problem and hope to get new and improved comment boxes up and under every post soon.
Until then, you can still comment on blog posts via the c-box on the side tab area of the blog, which looks like this:
All you have to do is type in your name so I know who left the comment (where it currently says Meagan) and then type your comment in the message area. Press "Go" when you're done. It's really that simple, I promise. And no need to include your email or website url unless you want to.
Okay guys, sorry about the glitches. Thanks for bearing with me!
(Oh, and thanks so much for all the responses I got about the bird coasters! Jake was excited to hear about all the interest. We're actually transferring the images onto the tiles as I speak - er, type - so it shouldn't be too much longer before those are up on Etsy for your viewing and owning pleasure. I'll include a link to our Etsy shop as soon as we get it running!)
I just found out about this contest and had to share it with you all!
For the 50-year-anniversary of Dr. Seuss's beloved children's book, Green Eggs and Ham, Random House is holding a Ham It Up Video Contest. I would've loved this as a kid - being a "little ham" myself. If you have theatrical kids (or have friends who have theatrical kids), you should definitely check this out. Prizes include $2,000 in cash, a limited-edition Green Eggs and Ham print, a year's supply of ham, and all kinds of other stuff, too.
Being a bird lover, I enjoy seeing the surplus of bird-inspired artwork that's on store shelves everwhere, and I'm always searching for new ways that people have used bird imagery in their home decor. Which is why I thought it was a fantastic idea when Jake suggested to me the project of making drink coasters out of four bird illustrations he drew recently.
Here are the illustrations:
Won't those make fabulous coasters?
Our goal is to have them up and for sale on our Etsy page within the week - cross our fingers. But whenever it happens, I'll be sure to let you all know!
Jake is also working on another set of coasters, too, hopefully to follow close behind the bird ones on Etsy. He's calling it the "Sea Garden" line, I believe. If you'd like, you can check out the illustrations for those coasters onJake's blog. They make me giggle.