Browsing the archives for the Community category.


Making A Splash

Animals, Beginnings, Community, LowerTown, New Paintings

I’m getting ready to teach a beginners’ watercolor class that starts in a couple of weeks and goes through early August. This is a first for me to teach this many people at once. But it’s a good start since Dave and I hope to do more of it as we spend more time in Mexico in the future.

So I’ve spent this week putting together my “curriculum,” deciding on what concepts to include and what I want to demonstrate. How do you distill 30 odd years of experience into 6 classes that give people the basics and enough confidence to continue to try more? That’s the challenge.

Looking through our photos I found this guy from our trip to the St. Louis Zoo last year and thought what a fun subject he is.

I love him for so many reasons, not the least of which is he has sun-lit hairs that make me smile. So I’m deciding whether to put him on the menu. He’s a little challenging but he’s got a lot of elements to show what you can do with watercolor without getting too fussy.

My class is at Ephemera, our newest addition to the Lower Town Arts District. Kristin Williams, the owner, has been doing a super job with marketing, and the class is about full! Looking forward to starting this new adventure!

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Another Form of Telephone

Community, Figurative, New Paintings, Travel
Story Line

"Story Line"

Fez, Morocco was our last stop on our world tour in 2005 before heading back to reality and our lives. If moving to Mexico could be considered reality. At that point it didn’t seem very real, or sane, for that matter. After two months of constant travel I was tired and weary of ever-changing landscape, customs, food, and trying to find cheap but decent lodgings. Morocco was a bit of a homecoming since we’d been there before, but we’d never been to Fez so it wasn’t familiar territory.

We managed to find a lovely pension on the east side of the Medina, recommended by a Moroccan we’d met on the train. He probably got a fee for finding folks like us but we didn’t mind. It was a nice place with clean rooms and friendly staff. Plus, it was just outside one of the bobs, or gates, to the souk. There was constant foot traffic of laden donkeys and streams of people going to and from the busy souk. It’s hard to describe such a place since the alleys snake endlessly through the old city such that it’s easy to get lost, and most foreigners like us are well advised to hire a guide. Which we did. My only regret, paradoxically, is that I wish we’d just explored on our own and not worried about getting lost. You can always pay some young boy to take you to the nearest bob and then hire a taxi to get back to your hotel.

The second or third evening we did decide to adventure out into the adjacent neighborhood to the east of us. This was reached by way of a winding street through neighboring storefronts that wound up a low hill into a nontourist area of the city. We like to find these spots to see how the locals really live and get a feel for the people. It was early evening, not yet sundown, with people out shopping in open air stalls and visiting. The streets were alive with people strolling and chatting, children playing, and they looked at us, these strangers with strange faces and dress so unaccustomed to their streets. We wandered into a small grouping of  stalls selling produce and food to order. At one we stopped to talk with a man making some sort of flat bread to ask what it was, whether sweet or otherwise. He had only to give us a taste to convince us this was something we had to have! Yummy and warm, fresh off the griddle, it was the perfect thing to eat and stroll.

Further along the way we came upon a long line of local women, heads covered in scarves of various design, bodies clothed in kaftans, the traditional garb for women, seated along a sidewalk curb in serious discussions. This was obviously their social time, gathering in the evening to talk about their day or other topics. How familiar it felt, and yet I envied this connection they had with one another, coming together as part of their daily existence while we are stuck behind our computers, televisions, and endless schedules. More than anything else, this line of women spoke to me of community, family, and sisterhood. Though I could not understand their words or begin to know what they talked about, their story reached out to me of this ancient need to connect and share each others’ lives.

“Story Line”

Watercolor on paper

$500 unframed

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Pray For Me

Community, Figurative, New Paintings, Travel
Pray For Me

"Pray For Me"

I’d lived in and around Chicago for nearly 15 years by the time September 11, 2001 came about. I worked in healthcare, managing a series of community health programs for a local chapter of a national nonprofit, all of them concentrated in the Hispanic and multicultural neighborhoods of Chicago’s west side. Most of my program’s clients were Latino, but Chicago being the cultural microcosm that it is, we experienced a much broader ethnic mix than just Puerto Rican and Mexican. We had blacks, some Polish kids, a smattering of Asians, and even a Palestinian teacher. I loved this cultural stew I found myself in, and I felt I was finally experiencing the real Chicago.

Dave and I lived in a large condo building in Berwyn, a west side suburb adjacent to Chicago, at the time of September 11, 2001. Berwyn is a working class neighborhood with a larger percentage of Mexican immigrants, but there are other groups that live and work there as well. Every morning I’d walk to the gas station next to our building and buy a Chicago Tribune to start my day. The gas station was owned and run by a couple Middle Eastern men. They were efficient, kept the place clean and orderly, and quietly dispensed change to me and standard pleasantries on my daily trips to their business. I never asked them where they were from. It never seemed necessary. They blended in with the rest of my experience.

I began to wonder about the two men after September 11 and hearing reports of incidents of harassment of people locally who looked Muslim. It concerned me that regardless of the atrocities in New York we would indiscriminantly turn on others just because they appeared to be Muslim. A few mornings later, as I handed my money through the safety window at the gas station to one of the Arabic men, I asked him if anyone had given him any trouble. He looked at me ,perhaps a little startled, and said,” Pray for me.”

I told him I would and wished him good day.

He and his partner left several weeks after that, turning the gas station over to someone else. I never heard of what had happened, why they left. But I still pray for him, and all of us, that we look beyond appearances and seek out what lies within each others’ hearts.

Title: “Pray For Me”

Medium: Watercolor on paper

Size: 8.5″ X 6.25″

SOLD

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Special Talents

Community, Deafness, Festivals, LowerTown, New Paintings, Painting Demonstrations
Crowds at the 2010 Lower Town Arts & Music Festival

Crowds at the 2010 Lower Town Arts & Music Festival

To give you one small update, I didn’t get awarded the featured artist for the up-coming Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital Arts Ability show which will be this Fall. I consider it an honor to have been invited to submit just the same. There have been other things, however, that have come along that have been even more rewarding.

Sometime shortly before the Lower Town Arts & Music Festival I received a call from Easter Seals West Kentucky art program manager, Darlene Davenport, asking if I’d be interested in providing a workshop for their adult clients sometime in June. I have a soft spot in my heart for Easter Seals having worked at the Chicago Metro Easter Seals for six years about a decade ago. It remains one of my most memorable and rewarding jobs. So in spite of my trepidation I gave Darlene an enthusiastic YES! and scheduled a time to come tour the studio and discuss my eventual workshop.

The Easter Seal adult program here serves adults of all ages from early 20’s and up. Their disabilities run the gamut from cerebral palsy to autism to traumatic brain injury. They participate in special activities such as the art program, as well as attend adult day care. The facility is bright and open with caring, capable staff. It’s a happy place in spite of what one might think given the seriousness of the disabilities seen among their clients. The art program is managed by Darlene and her assistant, Hope Boone. They’re both friendly, welcoming and infuse the small room with a sense of fun, color, and contagious creativity. When I visited, Hope was working with about 8 clients on a project drawing trees with colorful crayons and paints on muslin to be turned into wall hangings. The pieces were tremendously individual, each with its own strengths and personality — tall, skinny trees, trees with movement, trees of every shape. I went around the table and talked with each of the clients, and I knew immediately that the workshop would be a lot of fun if I could come up with a way to accommodate my watercolor style to their abilities.

The workshop I’d been asked to do is part of a grant program through VSA Arts, an international organization where people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts. (I happen to be a member and participate in their registry due to my deafness.) Artists are selected to provide workshops with clients developing a collaborative piece of artwork that will then become part of the Easter Seals West Kentucky 5th Annual Heart and Soul Art Celebration. This annual fundraiser features art from clients and local artists, as well the collaborative pieces created through these workshops.

Starting the main fish

Starting the main fish

I decided, after a lot of deliberation, that I would simply sketch out the painting I had in mind and then begin working on it while the clients began painting their own “practice” pieces using watercolor paints that I supplied. My choice of subject was a pool of koi because of their colorful nature and fluid, flowing shapes and movement. I figured everyone could related to these fun fish that don’t rely on a lot of detail. The painting would be all about color and movement and hopefully reflect the fun of the workshop.

Once I’d started the two main fish in the composition, and with the six or so clients busy painting their own fish at the main table, I called individuals up to my easel one at a time and asked them to paint sections of the painting on their own.

A client adds her touches to the painting

A client adds her touches to the painting

I chose the colors and dipped the brush in the paint to ensure the right amount of paint and water, but each person was free to paint their area however they chose and to their level of ability. Lines and detail weren’t so important. Dribbles and drips were allowed and not fussed with. The colors washed on and the painting began to come together in a delicious way. I was touched by each person’s concentration and enthusiasm to be part of the painting. I sensed that something more than a painting exercise was going on. A shift in energy within me had transpired as the painting came to life, as it most assuredly did.

The finished painting and me

The finished painting and me

My worries had been that something meaningful wouldn’t result from my workshop, that I’d lack the ability to communicate or integrate my experience with that of the clients. Would they be up to it? But I needn’t have worried as each of them approached the work with a calm self-assurance. I was the one who was scared, not them.

So, I made some friends who helped me paint some koi in a way that I would not or could not have done on my own. I had one of the best creative days ever and more than anything felt so lucky to have participated. Afterall, it wasn’t just my painting. It became theirs as well, and that’s reflected in the signature I affixed, “Stefanie Graves & Easter Seals Clients.”

"Koi of a Kind" watercolor on paper, 21" X 30"

"Koi of a Kind" watercolor on paper, 21" X 30"

If you’d like to see the finished painting in person and be part of the Heart & Soul Art Celebration, mark you calendar for Thursday, September 16, 6:00pm at Maiden Alley Cinema. Tickets are $20 and can be reserved by calling 443.1200 or 444.9687. I can’t think of a more worthy cause or a better way to spend a Thursday evening this Fall. All proceeds from the art auction benefit Easter Seals Western Kentucky.


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A Tribute to Children

Community, New Paintings

Children Naturally

Children Naturally

This week has been hectic to the point of having to let something slide, and then ended up being the daily paintings. What painting I did was to finish a commission I’ve been working on for over a month now. Some commissions come with the idea and images laid out, making the whole process easy to get under way and complete. Others, like this one, require planning out the composition with the client, a more conceptual approach. There was a whole phase of trial sketches done for approval before the final composition was decided upon.

When you’re putting together a composite picture made up of several elements from a variety of sources, it takes quite a bit more effort to makes sure that they all work together, that light falls in the same direction and that the perspective is right.

This particular commission is to be a retirement present for a women who has worked for the last 30 years advocating and lobbying for children’s healthcare policy in Washington, D.C. for a national children’s health organization. The children are at play doing what healthy children do naturally, a tribute to her several decades of work on their behalf.

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Signs of Autumn

Community, LowerTown, New Paintings
Rex and Anita's

Rex and Anita's

Besides changing from Daylight Savings Time, there are a number of signs in Lower Town that Autumn is here. Grass is cut only sporadically these days, the leaves are falling faster than I can keep track, and a lot of people have decorated their yards for Halloween or Thanksgiving. I’ve seen pumpkins and fake spider webs. Lots of mums in bloom and a few orange lights strung across porches. The apartment house on Madison where Linda lives didn’t have its usual fright face in the windows. I missed that.

But just down the street from me Rex and Anita have festooned the entryway into their yard at the hedgerow with an arch of cornstalks and a bright little pumpkin that almost goes unnoticed as it cowers by the base of the arrangement. I thought it would be an interesting composition to focus on the dried stalks to show how something so drab can actually have its own beauty from light reflections and the fun curves that come with the drying process of the corn plant. The pictures I took showed both the structure and the stalks up close. Today’s painting encompasses a part of the arch and the lonely pumpkin in shadow. He’s sporting a little dappled light from the sun peeking through the hedges.

Rex and Anita’s

Watercolor on paper

5.5″ X 4.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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Pumpkins!

Community, Florals, LowerTown, New Paintings
Pumpkin Pair

Pumpkin Pair

I’m back in town after a quick trip to Chicago to have my CI processors adjusted. Part of the post-op rehab that is part of learning to hear well with your new implant. Things are moving along nicely there, and I’m well pleased.

Today was catch-up because of my two day absence from my studio. Looking through a gazillion emails and answering phone calls. I also did a good bit of work on my second commission that I’ve been planning out for over a month. Finally, I was able to get down to work on the daily painting in late afternoon.

The pumpkins across the street in one of my neighbors’ yards shine brightly at me in a nice tableau as I look out my studio window. Some of the arrangement she’s made is too much for me, but I love the pumpkins next to the squatty ceramic pot. I honed in on what I liked to make a tight composition of the pumpkins and the pot. The boxy shape is a bit of a wooden wagon that’s too cutsie for my tastes. The yellow flowers add a touch of brightness and provide an additional play of color. Rather makes me think of Halloween and autumn.

Pumpkin Pair

Watercolor on paper

4.5″ X 5.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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At The Corner

Community, LowerTown, New Paintings
Sixth And Monroe

Sixth And Monroe

There’s a classic mansion on the corner of Sixth and Monroe here in Paducah that sits in stately splendor. It belonged to an elderly woman whose interests ran to Civil War era gowns and their preservation. She had quite a collection, I understand. Today, the pillared house stands rather silently in expectation since her passing last year. An elaborate garden with flowers, shrubbery, and statues makes up the entire front yard surrounded by a blue wraught iron fence.

The maple and dogwoods inside the yard are in full color right now. I noticed them earlier in the week and was struck by their overhanging color and deep shadow along the south side of the house, creating a canapy of leaves for the sidewalk underneath. I ventured out today to take the picture before the colors fade. Fall resides there at the house while it awaits other occupants.

Sixth and Monroe

Watercolor on paper

5.5″ X 4.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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Small Things

Community, Florals, LowerTown, New Paintings
Berries and Acorns

Berries and Acorns

I tend to look down as I walk through woods or along sidewalks. Not at my feet but at the flowers, leaves that have fallen, and for whatever treasures in the way of bugs or things of interest I might find. Last year while walking to the library I saw the tiniest of acorns scattered at my feet. Neat little caps with miniature buds of acorns. I picked one up and was entranced by their perfection and size, especially since the trees they came from were in the category of mighty oaks. I don’t know the specific species of oak but I kept the souvenir anyway.

Yesterday I made a stroll through Lower Town to get some exercise and see what was about. Two blocks away were brilliant orange berries, part of ornamental bushes at the side of someone’s yard. The perfect Fall color combination of scarlet orange and evergreen for the leaves. I pinched a sprig of leaves and one of berries to bring home for my daily painting. The acorn and its twin cap were still safely stored in my desk drawer from last year. Small things that made my day.

Berries and Acorns

Watercolor on paper

5.5″ X 4.5″

$50

Contact me for purchase

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Half Way

Community, LowerTown, New Paintings

Leftover Colors

Leftover Colors

This is my 50th painting since I started the 100 paintings in 100 days series. I’m hoping to have the rest done before Christmas, with a show planned for December in my studio. I think a lot of the next half of the daily paintings will be something taken from what I see around me, like today’s painting.

Temperatures have dropped here in Western Kentucky and the leaves are just beginning to turn. Our sycamore tree out front is turning burnished gold with mottled green and brown rust spots on the leaves. They blow onto our sidewalk and porch, castoffs as big handkerchiefs. I gathered a few yesterday and went in search of something a bit more saturated in color, and found a few crimson leaves in my neighbor’s yard to go with them. No great detail in this, just the colors of fall splashed across the paper with basic shapes.

We’re hoping to get out of town for the day on Sunday on Dave’s day off. Maybe we’ll go get some sawdust pie at the local diner we found in a town to our northwest. Or maybe take a drive to Land Between the Lakes and do a hike before the weather turns too cold for the winter.

Leftover Colors

Watercolor on paper

4.5″ X 5.5″

Sold

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