Thursday, May 27, 2010

Moon’s Portrait Painting

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.”
~ Unknown ~

Moon has been a member of my family going on 6 years.  We rescued him when he was a wee pup at 12 weeks of age through a Lab rescue organization on

It was a very cold winter night when I made arrangements to receive Moon at a drop off point in Newburgh, NY.  Moon was transported via a rental Penske truck from down South although exactly where is uncertain.  I remember waiting in a hotel parking lot where the caregivers would spend the night.  Apparently, they made the run with dogs in tow clear up to Maine.  I waited about an hour until the truck finally arrived.  I must have wanted my new puppy very much to wait in the cold, dead of night.  Finally, the truck arrived and I signed off on the paperwork and handed over the donation fee.  When they placed him in my arms, he licked my face.  Although he is our family dog, he is my baby.

The moon was full the night I adopted him.  It was a comfort seeing the big yellow Moon hanging in the night sky.  As I made the drive back home, I decided to call my new pup, Moon.  It seemed right and very different.   I like unique names and nothing else seemed to fit him.  He is a yellow Lab and the Moon appeared yellow against the black sky.  It was a match made in heaven.

Moon is a very sweet boy.  He is super affectionate, loves to snuggle and has a wicked intelligence.  We affectionately call him “little guy”.  Moon is little, big brother to our German Shepherd dog, Sirius who is only 16 months old.  Although Moon is smaller, he definitely knows how to show Sirius who is top dog.


I was finally able to finish the painting today.  It took 3 days to complete it.  I created the painting working from a photo using layers of acrylic paint on 9 x 12 inch canvas.  The finishing touch is to apply the varnish sealer to it.  After letting it cure for a week or so, it will be ready for framing.  I can’t wait.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moon Portrait In Progress Day 2

I have a very small space to work in.  One day, I will take a picture of it to show you.  Basically, I converted a small bedroom into a studio space.  The space is limited so I tend to work on one project at a time depending on the size of the piece.  In one regard, it’s good because there are less distractions.  I have to focus on the one piece instead of thinking about many projects simultaneously.  This is not to say, I’m not considering other projects – I am.  When I work on one project at a time, it allows me to temporarily push other projects on to the back burner.

Yesterday, I put a few hours into my Moon portrait painting.  I have to juggle my time and decide should I vacuum or paint.  Painting is far more interesting and fun so the vacuuming will just have to wait for another day.  Oh, well life does go on.

I added more background and working on building up the layers of colors.  More definition has been added to the face and body.  I started working on his collar.  We use an invisible fencing system for our dogs so that is the box you see on the collar.

Moon is a Lab.  We got him through pet finder when he was a pup.  He is far from show quality but we love him.  He is a companion dog and truly lives up to those expectations.  He only weighs about 50 lbs which isn’t large for his breed.  His muzzle is shorter than typical and his lips are not as “droopy”.  He has a little slack in the lips so I’m working on bringing it out more.  I have a ways to go in the details of his markings.  I am taking my time.

MoonInProgressIf you look at the previous post, you can see the progression in the work.  Be sure to check back for the next upload of this work and other posts.  BTW:  while you’re here, be sure to check out my featured artist page.

The next time you stop by this work may or may not be finished depending on how much time I can manage by “shirking” my other responsibilities.  Just kidding but you know what I mean.  It’s a trade off when there are just so many hours in the day.  And, I much rather be creating but sometimes I must tidy up the place, shop for food, pick up kids from school, pay bills, feed the critters and the list goes on.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Painting In Progress

To get out of my funk, I started a new pet portrait painting today.  It is of my sweet Lab dog, Moon.  I am working from a photo and using acrylic on 9 x 12 canvas.  The work is in progress but I wanted to share it so you can see where I’m at in the piece.

MoonPortraitI decided not to crop the photo so you can see the work as it is on my work table.  There’s a way to go with it but so far, I am liking with the progression.  I’m especially happy with the tongue which I considered a bit of a challenge.  For the color of it, I used a mixed of cadmium red deep and medium, burnt sienna and white.  I had to play around with mixing the colors until I was satisfied.  I think I got it just right.

The one good thing about having a small studio is that it forces me to finish a piece before moving on to the next.  With limited space, it’s difficult to leave unfinished work laying around.  I expect to have the work completed soon.  When it is completed, I will post it so be sure to check back to see it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Featured Artist Post

Given the subject matter of yesterday's post, the following quote seems to be the most appropriate:

Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another's pain, life is not in vain.  ~ Helen Keller ~

Please see and learn more about the creative works of Jackie Andrews on my feature page.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us is a book by:  Hillary Rodham Clinton.  In it, Clinton presents her vision for the children of America. She focuses on the impact individuals and groups outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child's well-being, and advocates a society which meets all of a child's needs.

Today, I’m going completely off topic from my usual ramblings about arts and crafts.  I have more pressing matters on my mind of late.  I know I don’t usually go  deep into my personal life.  Many bloggers suggest steering away from stories that are too personal.  However, I’m compelled to share because my family is the center of my life.  And, I can’t focus on creative pursuits when my energy is going in a completely different direction.  Further, when it comes to special education in the U.S., it’s important to share information and experiences which is the focus of this blog post.

We adopted our son at 7 weeks of age.  He was deemed healthy and was of very good birth weight coming into the world at 8 lbs, 10 oz – a very “healthy” birth weight.  The toxicology report was negative – a very good sign.  However, he was a fussy baby and seemed a bit off.  He didn’t develop like other babies.  He missed being on time for all of his milestones except one and that was turning over from back to front.  He didn’t learn to walk until he was 18 months old.  His abilities are splintered.  When he was 4 years old, he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS – Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified.  He excels at reading but struggles with expressive language and abstract comprehension.  My son cannot recite the months of the year without leaving out October.  His IQ score is below average.  I don’t know why it is.  I only know it’s so.  We don’t have a genetic family profile for my son.  We only know that his birthmother didn’t seek pre-natal care and imbibed in recreational drug and alcohol use while pregnant.  To what extent, how much, how often is unknown.


Yesterday, I asked my son “what does a dozen mean?”  He didn’t know.  My son is 8 years old and coming to the end of 2nd grade.  My son has an IEP – Individual Education Program under special education.  I am my son’s number one advocate.

Aren at Museum of Nat History

Since April, I’ve been preparing for the upcoming CSE Committee on Special Education meeting in June.  Advocating and preparing is an arduous task.  In my mind, it shouldn’t be as the proof should be in the pudding so to speak.  However, it is and many parents with special needs children struggle with the system, wringing their hands, losing sleep and having anxiety attacks over the whole process.  Often, they must muster up the strength and courage to face a throng of “professionals” often alone and heavily outnumbered.  It’s imbalanced because at the same time, parents rely on the judgment of the professionals to determine their child’s educational future.  The thing is, no one knows their child better than the parents.  Parents by definition according to the law under IDEA are supposed to an integral participant on the CSE/IEP team.  It sounds simple enough in this regard but sounding simple and the reality are often entirely different things.  The school districts by and large have their own agenda.  Often they will feel threatened and defensive when parents bring important questions to the table.  After all, they are supposed to the experts.  These tables need to change for the benefit of our children.  It is not about the professionals and their egos – it’s about our kids and their needs.  Period.

Parents must become a kind of para-legal in their child’s education defense.  We must research and present compelling arguments.  We must understand the law and have the courage to recite the statues.  If we don’t, our kids educational needs are at risk.  Recently, I was granted an IEE – Individual Education Evaluation at school district expense.  I am not boasting about it.  In fact, I think it’s sickening that I was placed in the position to fight for the obvious.  At first, the district insisted on putting an expense allowance cap.  I fought back and won one small victory by reciting sections of the law. 

The IEE was completed but I’m still at a stand still.  The evaluator thinks all is well in the district that my son is a sweet and highly likeable boy.  Sweetness does not fully identify and meet the needs of his educational requirements.  I was taken aback when the evaluator said to me and my husband, our son is “mentally retarded” based on his IQ score.  That he’s a sweet and loving child and everyone loves him at the school.  And, in sum, what do we expect given the level of his abilities.  The evaluator went on to say my son is working behind his peers; that he will be behind due to his challenges and that’s the best we can hope for.

My BIG concern is that the school district isn’t fully able to address my son’s educational needs and it appears no one wants to do the right thing – suggest referrals to schools that maybe, just maybe might make a difference for our son.  How will we know unless we try.  Further the tool used to measure my son’s IQ in pre-school was the Wechsler IQ test which may not be the most accurate.  It is not a true measurement of his intelligence and therefore my son is at risk of being labeled a slow learner.  In this regard, my concern is will the district not try hard enough with my son due to his IQ score and dismiss his educational needs due to a perceived lack of ability.

My argument is, if Anne Sullivan gave up on Helen Keller, Ms Keller would not have been able to rise above her disabilities.  The system will fail my son if professionals are allowed to go about their way instead of the right way and addressing my son’s IEP as according to the law.

IEPs According to Dr. Suess
(author unknown)

Do you like these IEPs?

I do not like these IEP's
I do not like them, Jeeze Louise
We test, we check
we plan, we meet
but nothing ever seems complete.

Would you, could you
like the form?

I do not like the form I see.
Not page 1, not 2, not 3.
Another change,
a brand new box. I think we all
Have lost our rocks.

Could you all meet here or there?

We could not all meet here or there.
We cannot all fit anywhere.
Not in a room
Not in a hall
There seems to be no space at all.

Would you, could you meet again?

I cannot meet again next week
No lunch, no prep
Please hear me speak.
No, not at dusk and not at dawn
At 4 p. m. I should be gone.

Could you hear while all speak out?
Would you write the words they spout?

I could not hear, I would not write
This does not need to be a fight.

Sign here, date there,
Mark this, check that.
Beware the student's ad-vo-cat(e).

You do not like them
so you say
Try it again! Try it again!
and then you may.

If you let me be,
I'll try again
and you will see.


I almost like these IEP's
I think I'll write 6003.
And I will practice day and night
Until they say
"You've got it right".

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Altered Art

Every now and then, I enjoy taking a piece of my art and manipulating it in Coral Draw.  It’s interesting to see the different effects that can be achieved by using the tool.  What is cool is altering the art to make something completely different; an abstract artwork.


Following are samples of work I created using my Queen of Hearts drawing.  The color combination of red,white and black are bold so it lends itself to making a dramatic abstract.

AbstractMagnetZazzleThis one is inviting you into the rabbit hole.  The March hare is in there somewhere after all.

AbstractTShirtZazzleHow about weaving your way in and out of this one?  Can you find Alice in here; she’s there – really.  :)  I think the Queen must be tripping.  What do you think?

Both of these great products can be found and purchased at my Zazzle store.  BTW:  Did you know that Zazzle partners with Upromise and kicks a percentage back to your collage saving account.  I’ve been a member of Upromise since 2001 and must say, it’s a great way to save.  Plus Upromise offers additional savings in coupons.  If you didn’t think you could buy practical, unique art and save, well, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Page for Featured Guest Artist Spotlight

Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~

I created a page to spotlight indie artists.  I love arts and crafts.  I always have.  And, just because I'm an artist doesn't mean I don't appreciate the work and effort of my fellows.  I love going to arts and crafts shows, browsing art galleries and appreciating just about all there is the visual arts has to offer.  I buy handmade and it's the first place I look for a special gift.  It is inspiring to look at and appreciate the work of other artisans.

My goal is to showcase an artist every couple of weeks and their work.  The artist has a chance to respond to interview questions.  I think many people are curious about artists and what sparks their creativity.  I hope the responses to these questions will engage the reader's interest to take a closer look at their work.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Captured Moments

Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.  ~ Buddha ~


I love animals life which is probably an understatement.  Saying it, doesn’t fully translate what I feel or think when I hug my dogs or admire cows and horses grazing in the field.  I want to show through my work what I consider to be pleasing both to heart and mind.


In a previous post, I mentioned that I photographed cows.  It is rural where we live.  There are many horse and cow farms.  Driving past the farms, seeing the animals grazing always puts a smile on my face.  On rare occasion, I’ve had to stop to let a cow parade cross the road as they made their way to the field on the other side.  One time, a herd of horses were in the road.  I think they got loose.  Their owner was no where to be seen.  It was a funny and strange sight seeing them outside of their enclosure.  They weren’t scared, in fact, they appeared relaxed as if it’s something they tend to do – get out unbeknown to their humans.

I want to share some of the beauty I see on my daily rounds.  And, I’m using these captured moments in my work, adding in photo art.  If you like art in practical, useful products, I design mugs, tee shirts, magnets and more at my Zazzle store.  There is a wide selection and they are thoughtful gift ideas.  Kids love stickers and magnets too!  It’s a cost effective way to give a little something for your child without going over board.  Keep a few on hand, tucked away for that special time you want to reward your child for a job well done.  Buy these items and put them away to keep gifts on hand.


What is your favorite Zazzle product?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cowboy Coffee

Yesterday, my Cuisinart coffee maker burned out – literally.  I heard a crackling sound coming from my kitchen.  I couldn’t imagine what it was although it sounded like it was coming from the counter.  To my shock, the coffee was starting to boil and there was smoke coming from the bottom of the machine.  Thank goodness I was home because I fear there might have been a fire if I did not unplug the coffee maker.

With my coffee machine broken I knew I was going to be a big grouch without my morning “fix”.  My sweet husband said he would make the morning run to Dunkin Donuts or Mickey D and maybe he was thinking as much about himself as he was for me.  After all, who wants to deal with a grouchy wife first thing in the morning.  I’m thinking, I like my coffee right after getting up and if truth be told, I was feeling downright bratty about it.  And, I didn’t want my husband chasing for it either.  I thought, there must be an alternative way to make coffee without a machine.  How did they do it back in the day before machines and how did cowboys on the range get their cup of “joe”?

When in a pinch, I turn to the handy, often trusty and informative internet.  I found a recipe for making coffee in a pan on top of the stove.  I was giddy with the prospect of solving a problem and getting what I most needed – morning coffee in a hurry!

One never knows when they may find themselves in a similar situation so I thought I would share it here with you.  I mean, I can’t see anyone suffering needlessly.

Cowboy Coffee Recipe

In a saucepan, bring one quart of water to a boil.

Add 3/4 cup of ground coffee

Return to a boil but only briefly.  You want to be sure all the grounds are covered with water.  Do not boil for more then 30 seconds otherwise the taste may be adversely effected.

Immediately remove from the heat and cover.

Wait till the grounds sink to the bottom of the pan (approximately 5 minutes).

The grounds will be at the bottom of the pan.  You can slowly pour the coffee directly into a cup like the cowboys do.  Or, you can use the grounds cup from the machine, put a filter in it and pour the coffee into a carafe which is how I did it.


One thing I want to add, this makes a strong coffee which I like.  You may need to adjust for your taste.  This recipe works.  I was pleasantly and thankfully surprised and so was my husband.  :)

Practical Artful Gifts


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