new eyes

It’s time for another class tonight to learn more about Adobe Illustrator. I did have time this week to practice some at home – on our old computer with a very old version of the program. It is still all new to me! Aside from the bits and pieces that I have learned about computer art, and the lessons I mentioned in my last post, this experience has reminded me how important it is to notice the little things. Now I can begin to appreciate the intricacies in a piece of design.

I had a discussion with my daughter yesterday. She is becoming in high demand for her graphic design work, yet along the way she tries to make time for volunteer opportunities. Recently she spent way too much time and effort on one such endeavor. Too much time away from her business, too much time in relation to the amount of work others put into their roles. She also complained that the thanks were missing for her work. My guess is that no one truly understood all that went on behind the scenes to result in the finished products.

As I continue my learning process of computer art, I am also trying to be more cognizant of the efforts put into projects of all kinds that I see in my daily life. I am understanding that things don’t just “happen” or “materialize” or “come to be” on their own. I want to notice more – and I want to take the time to thank those creative souls who make time to perfect their craft and make the rest of us smile with delight.

bottom of the class

I have always dabbled in art. When I was young, back before I decided for sure to become a teacher, I thought about what was then called “commercial art.” My high school began a “Winterim” program my junior year, consisting of weeks between the first and second semester where students could pursue interests and experiences outside the normal realm of academics. That year I did an independent study with my fabulous art teacher. I loved every minute of it, but it was then that I decided it was very hard to produce inspiration on demand.

Yet the desire to create remained in me.  I love decorating my home. I have addressed invitations and created prints using calligraphy. I have made artwork and signs galore for school, and rarely have I used “stock” bulletin boards in my classroom. We have given many handmade birthday and Christmas gifts along the way, and we have made our own Christmas cards for almost thirty years.

My daughter is now a fabulous graphic designer who owns her own paper business. (I used to say “stationery business,” but with her prints and other designs it has become much more than that. Because of all these new ideas she is currently rebranding her website but you can get an idea here.  She allowed me to get in on the fun and took some little watercolor drawings I made and turned them into a line of notecards.  Each one is hand-glittered, too, and the line is called… can you guess? Firefly.

That was so encouraging I decided to take a watercolor class and develop my “talent” there. Yikes!! The main thing I learned is that watercolor (for me) is very, VERY hard! I did enjoy the class, and each week it met from 6-9 in the evening. The instructor would do a short lesson or demo, and then give us the rest of the time to paint as she came around for individual help. I would look at my watch about 6:45 and think, “What am I going to do for the next two hours?” But knowing it had boiled down to the paper, the paint, and me, I set to work, and learned so much. I even created a couple of pieces I am pleased with.

Last year a friend invited me to her home one afternoon to make some collages. I loved that, too, and had a gazillion ideas spring into my head about what to do with this art form. I even had two collages printed on canvas, and was pleased with those results. But somehow I haven’t found the time to continue. Or perhaps the perfectionist in me knows that collage, too, is hard work, and I will not create something I like with every work that I attempt, so I have placed that on the “back burner,” along with all the other art ideas I have had.

Recently I have pursued yet another artistic endeavor. Watching my daughter work has inspired me to learn about computer art, so I am currently taking a class in Adobe Illustrator. I basically want to be able to use the computer to take quotes and sayings I have collected through the years and be able to make prints, bookmarks, and posters with this program.  I have only been to class twice, but I have learned so much already.

I have learned that I only thought I was computer literate. I have learned that intuitive programs are not always necessarily so. I have learned that watercolor is a snap next to this.  I have learned that somewhere there are some very interesting minds that have created vector art. I have learned that every tool you click on has twenty more tools hidden inside it.

This class has already taught me that I am old. Thank goodness I sit next to a very kind young woman. She has helped me so much already that last week I told her I was going to have to pay her as well as the instructor. Before class we were chatting and I discovered that she and I had graduated from the same high school. When I asked what year she graduated, I found out that she finished school exactly thirty years after I did.

And now I know what the struggling readers that I work with at school feel like. I know how it feels to think that everyone else around you knows more than you do. I know how embarrassing it can be to ask a simple question about step one when the class seems to be on step seventeen. And I know how it feels to want to just give up. But I still hold fast to my dreams and I hope I’ll be able to master this someday. There’s joy in this journey and I am determined to learn all that I can.

joy in the journey

Recently I made a quick trip to St. Louis for a one day seminar. The workshop was fantastic, but even more so, the scenery along the way was moving…

Without our noticing exactly when, the fields spread out for miles around us. Flat, so flat, and spreading on and on, fencerows hard to spot in the vast open space. Here and there, the farmhouses were large and welcoming, yet dwarfed by the barns and outbuildings that circled them, seemingly for protection rather than convenience, like wagon trains at night.

The giant church buildings were planted firmly, alone in the distance, raising steeples to the sky in thanks to the Great Provider, calling the weary workers to come and be filled.  Racing along beside us we saw the long train on the horizon. It streamed along, in its entirety, not in bits and pieces. You don’t see the full expanse of one in the hills of home.

We saw the dams that made Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, churning electrical power, and the long bridge over the broad Ohio River, and at last, the mighty Mississippi. The arch in St. Louis was right there, its simple design symbolic of so much, past and future. It was not situated on the prairie – with the imagined desert-surrounded Alamo of my dreams – but guiding the visitor’s eye from the water into a bustling city, and causing me to wonder if Lewis and Clark ever stood in the actual place I was traveling over.

The peace and solitude, the loneliness, the energy, the toil it must take to manage those lands. How timely that this trip occurred on Super Bowl weekend, with the words of Paul Harvey’s moving tribute cementing my observations into memory:

“God said, ‘I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadowlark.’  So God made a farmer.”

Blessings to those who have made this land a special, unforgettable place.