Friday, March 26, 2010

The Happy Book for 26 March

Today is a good day to start off thinking about The Happy Book club: It's cold and blustery - just when we've gotten lulled into spring mode. But this week, the weather has made me really happy. I think this is my favorite season. I love, love, love the lengthening days, watching for new plants and flowers every day, hearing all the bird songs as they call to their mates. I love walking out the door and smelling earth. I love the misty gentle rains that make your skin feel fresh, almost make you feel like you should be growing and blossoming, too.

I was walking by the "lake" at Vassar before sunrise earlier this week. A great blue heron took off from the edge of the water just a few feet from me - rising ghostly, large audibly flapping wings. Such a great image against the barely lightening sky. It filled me with wonder.

Marcus, at 5, loves dinosaurs. Students at Vassar had painted dinosaur footprints on the sidewalk in front of the geology building, and when I saw them on my morning walk I knew I had to take him there. So I picked him up from school yesterday and took him to see them. He asked if they were real or painted. I told him they were painted but it didn't diminish his enthusiasm. We followed them into the woods where they seemed to originate and every little depression he called out "Look, here's another one!" And the mud hole was surely the site of some bones that we should dig. It is so much fun to play with a 5 year old.

I hope you're savoring happy times, too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Collage Workshop

I just finished an eight week storytelling collage workshop with Kathryn Antyr: What a great experience this has been! She uses the theme of the Hero's Journey, borrowing information from Joseph Campbell and others and leads participants as they set out on their own explorations. Each week we were given affirmations, prompts and examples. In addition she set up a group board where we could share our questions, comments, and the work we were doing. It became a small band of fellow travellers that I looked forward to meeting up with as we pursued our individual courses.

We may get to actually hear each others' voices via a conference call this weekend - the next best thing to an in person gathering.

I was just introduced to Smilebox - a fun way to set up slide shows of your pictures. While it says it only takes 5 minutes to get going, I found it took me quite a bit longer to figure out what I was doing. But it really was fairly simple after I got the hang of it. And you can see my collages and a very brief summary here: .

I hope this comes through. That would make me really happy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Completing the Icon

Once the highlights and floats are finished, there are still many details to attend to. There are borders that will need delineation, cleaning up. Haloes are usually outlined, often with red and white, signifying the spanning of earth and heaven. The outside border of the icon is edged where the bole meets the background. Enliveners are small brush strokes of bright light to emphazize features on faces, hands, edges of garments. And no icon is complete until it is named. Sometimes the name is placed near the image, sometimes it's written on the border.

The icon will need to dry thoroughly before the final step, which is the oiling.

In our class, we lovingly refer to this as "The ahaa moment". When someone is ready to oil, we gather around to watch the transformation. (I wish I had a picture that could capture this. Perhaps I'll remember to do this on my next icon and will post it.) The board is warmed slightly, and linseed oil is also heated a bit. With a small prayer, it is poured over the icon. As you pick up the board to gently spread the oil, you watch as the colors come alive, jewel-like. It's the difference between the stones you find at a beach that are dull gray or mud colored and as soon as they get wet, they gleam with layers of color and detail. The oiling process actually takes a couple of hours to finish, watching carefully to see that the oil is being absorbed evenly, that colors are staying intact. And then the work is to remove the excess gradually, leaving just enough for the level of sheen desired. Linseed oil is another of the smells I've come to love.

I recognize, too, that iconography is not just a way of doing art. It becomes a vocation. And it is always a lesson in humility.