Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Art Web or We Have a Name!

Catherine, Lisa and I have settled on a name for our group: Art Web. I like it because webs have anchors and threads like the plot of a good novel. Catherine likes it because most of our meetings occur virtually because of time and distance constraints. Lisa likes it because it is unlimited and leaves room for more creative minds to join us.

So here is an update from Art Web:

Catherine is putting the finishing touches on a painting of a unicyclist. She put out an e-mail for critiques a few days ago and the consensus was that the painting is finished. I love the bright yellow she used for the unicyclists shirt. She has also been auditioning to teach painting classes and put out some feelers for book illustrations. Catherine is also reading over Titus for me and making notations for illustrations. She has had a really busy two weeks.

Lisa is working on her entry for the Etsy Mud Team challenge.  She writes about it better than I can so here is the link to her blog:

This morning Lisa surprised me with a thermos of coffee and a request for a wood frame for a plaster mold she is making.  I forgot to mention that this is my other contribution to our group – I dabble in woodworking and will build frames and shop fixtures for the other two whenever they ask. I enjoy it and the simple task of making a right angle or two lets me participate in their processes.  The frame was done before the coffee was gone and I can't wait to see what Lisa does with the mold. 

The garden is getting ready for spring time and Lisa is taking notes. She draws inspiration from everything around her. Last week I had the pleasure of stopping by for coffee and seeing what she was doing with willow branches from her backyard.

There is a magical moment when the long ropey branches of the willow are almost ready to burst with leaves. Lisa clipped some and pressed them into the clay, capturing that in between time when nature and gardeners teeter between winter and spring. She was kind enough to let me take a picture of the greenware for the blog. I love the wood grain she pressed into the center of the plate. It invokes the trunk of the tree that puts out the branches and supports all this spring time growth.

As for me, I'm taking a break from Titus. I am a bit snow blind from finishing the first draft and need to get some distance from the text before I tackle the revisions. This leaves me wondering what to work on.

Looking at Lisa's willow plate makes me think of Sara's Garden. Lisa draws her inspiration from the forms around her in nature. The idea for Sara's Garden came to me the same way. There were two initial sparks.

The first spark is a piece of land that we drive by almost every day. If that land were mine, I would turn it into a community garden. When I was growing up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, my mother participated in a community garden started by a man's wife. She knew her husband loved to garden and it kept him vibrant but he was getting older and she didn't want him out there alone. So they opened up the well worked family land to the community.

The second spark for Sara's Garden happened while eating lunch with my kids at Costco. We do love those $1.50 hot dog combos. Plus, its a chance to turn a chore into an outing.

There was an elderly man sitting at the table next to us while he waited for his wife. He got up and bought a coke but his hands were too arthritic to unscrew the plastic cap. Two twenty somethings at the next table thought this was hilarious and they laughed as he braced the bottle against the shopping cart and tried to get some grip on the cap with the other hand.

The twenty somethings made me mad. The man was clearly a farmer. He was wearing overalls but you could also tell by his hands. Long fingers, large knuckles. It looked like he could and had fixed anything that needed fixing.

I pulled the mommy act and went over to help with the bottle cap. I made a joke about needing some peanuts to drop into the coke bottle. He talked with us until his wife came and enjoyed how curious my son was about goats and chickens.

He was a well read, well learned gentlemen farmer and reminded me of one of my professors at Wofford College who taught Shakespeare with a Bamberg, South Carolina accent.

So, between my longing for a community garden and the image of those hands, the story of Sara's Garden formed. I live in an area of urban sprawl where transplants to the community have a nostalgia for the farm life that their communities swallowed up. Sara's Garden exists amidst this conundrum.

Sara is in middle school and has recently moved near her grandparents. She loves this because she has always spent a month each summer with them on their farm. Her grandparents are a machine shop manager and a teacher but they both have farms in their pasts and like living to the rhythm of the land despite their jobs.

When we meet Sara, her grandmother has gone into a nursing home because of mental deterioration but her grandfather has opted to stay in the house. Sara is furious with him. Over the course of the book Sara deals with her grief for a grandmother who is not gone yet no longer with her and the anger she feels towards her grandfather.

Sara and Grandfather have to reforge their friendship without grandmother's presence. I think this is true for most men. Its the women in their lives who maintained the social ties with family and friends. When faced with the loss of a spouse, elderly men have to take over this role for themselves. It can be very isolating.

There is a lot going on in Sara's Garden and I hope that as it grows, it becomes a thoughtful read for adults as well as children.

That's all from Art Web for now. The three of us constantly pass the inspiration around – we'll see where it lands next.

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