Category Archives: Art

After A FASHION

As I am photographing this for the blog I suddenly realize that I have an Eleanor Link piece of art. Sadly not original, but still a cherished treasure, she was such an icon.

“Jett, see what you can do with this.” My boss Gene South, or Geno as we all call him, has thrust a layout assignment into my hands. It’s my first week on the job. I have no idea what I’m doing but a quick study, I am rapidly learning the ropes. My two colleagues, Mark Burnett, Kay Wyland and I design print ad layouts for Miller & Rhoads Department Store in Richmond, Virginia. We work in a shared cubicle, one of many, on the seventh floor of the department store. Next week we’ll be moving down to the third floor because our department’s floor space is needed for the store’s new main frame computers, so everyone has told me not to get too settled.

The day is not over, I’ve finished my assignments so Geno grabs an upcoming but not immediate ad to keep me busy. Still so green but not wanting to show my ignorance, I forge ahead and create something I really like using the sparse instructions, showcase the store using a classic suit. Apparently Geno likes what I’ve done too because he tells me that he is going to use it and puts it into production a few days later. Eleanor Link, head fashion artist illustrates my design. I have landed on the back cover of the Richmond Symphony program! Later Geno even steps into my cubicle to show me the finished work. Praise from the normally taciturn boss. I’m legal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you how I got this job. The year is 1966. I am graduating from Richmond Professional Institute (now VCU) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Per mom’s suggestion I have completed courses in teaching, but as much as I love kids, my still fresh student teaching experience has left me with little interest in the field.

And so I try several advertising agencies that have posted on the bulletin board of the graphic arts department, an off limits territory for fine arts students. The unwritten rule is that art students bond with their kind and never cross the invisible barrier. When I attended our college reunion two years ago the drama students that were entertaining us told me that they had a curiosity question and then asked me if students between the disciplines mixed when we were in school.  I laughed and assured them that apparently some things never change.

So I ignore the unspoken ban because I love Richard Carlyon and sign up for one of his commercial art lectures. I don’t care, I’m a rebel. I barely manage a C in his class but who cares I’m walking the walk and loving it.

None of the jobs are panning out. It’s evident that I know nothing about commercial art design. I cannot even get a job with Richmond newspapers through Chick Lawson, a good friend of my grandfather’s. And he’s pretty high up in the pecking order. I move on. Miller & Rhoads is a thought. Mom worked in Junior Colony as a young bride and mother. Surely there’ll be some job opening. At this point anything will do. I’m graduating. I need a job. But HR has nothing to offer.

Then a dorm mate tells me about an opening she has heard about in the Advertising Department of Miller & Rhoads. She’s in fashion illustration. I like the idea although I know nothing really about advertising. But that’s not going to stop me. In my mind’s eye I determine that I need to be dressed to impress. Really dressed to impress.

I decide that I need a hat, modest heels, gloves, a subdued sheath, pearls, a handbag, and matching hose. (Forget pantyhose, they are not yet on the horizon.)  I borrow most. I’m an art student, this type of outfit is not in my wardrobe. I take the bus downtown to the store. I get dressed in my borrowed finery in the ladies room and head up to the seventh floor where the advertising offices are located.

I have no appointment. I open the door to the department and practically fall into the receptionist’s desk which is right inside the door jammed into a tiny hallway and bumped up against a cubicle. There are no offices. Everyone has a minute cubicle with half walls so that they can shout changes to each other rather than waste time walking. Well, the director, Ashton Mitchell, does have an office but only he. I swoon. It’s an art world made for me. I announce that I am here about the job. In one telling look the receptionist, Cabell Bricker, sizes up both me and my outfit. I immediately realize that I’m on shaky ground.

This outfit which seemed like such a great idea is clearly so far over the top that it’s absurd. But I don’t back down. I look her in the eye, pleading. To her credit she does not blink an eyelash or worse, send me packing. I actually think that I recognize her and she me from campus parties, but we don’t run in the same circles, so neither of us goes there. Still it’s a small notch in my belt.

She’s intrigued enough that she yells for the art director. He appears, takes one look at me, inhales and glances at Cabell. She’s stifling a laugh. He looks me up and down. I hold my breath. He makes his decision and invites me to step into his cubicle. I breath a sigh of relief and quickly follow, not daring to look at Cabell lest she burst out laughing and break the spell. Geno browses through my portfolio. It’s all fine art work; etchings, lithographs, drawings. There are no designs, no advertising, no fashion illustrations. Expecting a rejection, I am elated when he tells me to go home, design six full page fashion spreads and bring them in for him to review.

I practically dance my way back to the dorm. And then panic hits. I don’t know anything useful for this assignment. I draft Gail, the friend who told me about the job. She’s as clueless as I am. She’s in illustration not advertising layout. I plunge ahead, borrow some swipes (fashion art by other artists to be used as prompts or figure placement when creating) from Gail and create my designs. I have actually taken a night school course in advertising but the most I learn from that is that our professor drives his Aston Martin to school and is willing to break for beer at Andy’s to end class early.

I turn in the completed designs to Cabell. This time I am dressed more like my real self. She’s says they’ll be in touch. Days go by. I hear nothing. I’m getting worried. We, the twentysome girls that I live with, share a common phone. Anyone within range answers it and takes a message if need be. I pester everyone. Maybe I got a call and the message did not get logged into the book. I want this job. I need this job. It’s mine. I draw up another series of ads and take them in. I explain to Geno that I redo the work because I figure that I can do better than the first set and hand him the papers. These are big 18×24 sketches. He rifles through them and probably figures that he is never going to get rid of me. He gives me the job.

A gift box with illustrations. Pat can do this in a heartbeat but she acknowledges that it is before her time. We decide that it is one of Bertha’s masterpieces.

Epilogue: Miller & Rhoads Advertising Roll Call 60’s Era

Ashton Mitchell “Mitch”, director. Hard to find a nicer guy. And the staff party he and his lovely wife threw every year at their waterfront home in Powhatan was not to be missed.

Gene “Geno” South, art director. A talented man and could carry a joke but you best toe the line on the clock.

My later immediate boss when I became the solo regional ad layout department, Jasper, or Jack to us, Horne, regional director.

Cabell Bricker, receptionist. She later becomes a great friend.

Mark Burnett, Kay Wyland, Eileen Talley (replaced me when I became regional staff of one layout artist), Bobbie Hicks (brought on when they needed even more staff) layout artists. Grouped as one because unlike everyone else who had their own, save production, we shared a cubicle. I did get my own cubicle when I was shifted to regional ads.

Pat Cully, illustrator. Our cubicles were next to each other, across the arms length hallway. I bought my first car from Pat & her husband Don (that’s a future blog post).

Sandy Crews (Rhodes), illustrator. I introduce her to Hank and they later marry. Hank and I date briefly but, as nice as he is, the vibes aren’t there. So one Saturday when he shows up at my apartment unannounced to encourage me to go on a day outing to Williamsburg I defer. But rather than send him off dejected I suggest that he take Sandy, who lives nearby.  I call her and she agrees. They hit it off and become a couple. I’m a matchmaker.

Eleanor Link, high fashion illustrator. She would get sent by train to NYC at the store’s expense, probably for fashion week. As beautiful and timeless as her illustrations were you will never see a navel on an exposed abdomen. Not allowed. I asked her about that once. She told me that the edict came from the 6th floor executive offices.

Bertha Morrissey, fashion illustrator.

Charlotte Saunders, head copywriter and a brilliant woman.

Sarah Gayle Hunter, copy writer who was fuller than life, you always heard her coming.

Bobbie Lynch, copywriter.

Betsy Drake (Allred), copy writer and good friend who matched up with a Latter Day Saints missionary from out west and followed him home to become his wife.

Tuppy Giasi, copywriter. Hank Rhodes was in the army with her husband Billy. I was Hank’s first blind date in our crowd.

Lester Woody, copywriter.

Jackie Blair, regional copy writer either St Catherine’s or St Mary’s background.

Lynn Weakley and Len White, production.

Sherrie Edwards Oliva, proof runner. I got her this job when prior runner, Becky, got married. Sherrie and I share many live adventure stories including the wedding dress one. It was always exciting to tag along with Sherrie to the executive offices. They were so solemn looking and we never saw anyone around.

 

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Well Deserved Mr Tambourine Man

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I was there. He mesmerized me. I’d even say it changed my life. I could do anything. Be anything that I wanted to be. It was liberating.

Today my man Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for literature. Well deserved Mr Tambourine Man, well deserved. I never met Dylan. But I still have an awesome story about how we came to ride the winds of time together.

The year is 1966. I am just into my last semester as a fine arts student at what was then RPI, now VCU, located in Richmond, Virginia. A division of William & Mary, RPI was a campus cobbled together in the fan district, the part of town where streets fanned out from the centrally located departments stores and town churches to meet the suburbs. School was composed of maybe four actual classroom buildings to include a three story gym with the art department being housed on the third floor. All other classes were held where ever a spot could be found. Mostly carriage houses or old homes.

Campus population was roughly half day students and half boarding, save a separate count of night school students who were mostly professionals adding onto their degrees. Those of us that lived on campus, found ourselves housed in former richly appointed homes. My dorm was the Bocock House on Franklin Street. I was one of its first inhabitants. Mrs Bocock had just opened the second floor of the front half of the house to the college. There were thirteen of us. By the time I graduated our numbers had increased to about twice that size since third floor rooms were added to the mix.

My first room was a corner room (they were huge) and overlooked the formal garden. My second room had hand painted French wall paper that used to drive us insane after a night of drinking. Red, white & blue plumes that danced freely for you. This room was in the middle of the second floor rooms (all the rest were corner rooms) and was actually a sitting room and thus very small compared to the others. Each room had its own bathroom complete with European water closet and claw footed bathtub. We had walk in, and walk through to the adjoining room, closets. Our room had its own small balcony, very Juliet like.

All of this narrative is to set the scene for RPI stories to follow in various posts. It was the sixties, women had curfews and were not allowed to wear pants on campus. I had to wear a raincoat over my bibs to and from art classes to avoid a call to the dean of women’s office. I later got one but that is another story and for another reason.

The day of the Dylan concert I was hanging out at Andy’s on Grace Street, the favored watering hole of business students. I was told recently by a fellow student that art students just did not go to Andy’s. I really was not aware of this pecking order at the time. He explained that art students were not cool enough, or maybe too cool, but they gathered elsewhere. Since my roomie was a retailing major and I dated among her crowd I had a free pass to be among the elite. It was there that my drinking buddy (his gal pal was at home in Georgia birthing their college romance son, no pregnant gals allowed on campus in the sixties) said he had free tickets compliments of a friend that worked in the box office of the Mosque to a nifty concert and would I like to go. He promised it would rock my world. The Mosque was close to campus and appears as it sounds, very big, very ornate and very impressive. All campus dances were held in the lower level ballroom. Another story.

I accept his proposal and we part to prep for our date. When he picked me up, he tells me we can get better tickets than the balcony ones he has. We stop at the box office and trade our second balcony tickets in for front row, first balcony. He explains who I am about to see. I know a little about Dylan. A dorm mate had some of his albums, I thought them rough. The house is not packed and at that it is mostly older folks, I did not see anyone from campus. What kind of concert is this going to be?

Then this skinny guy walks out on the stage of this massive place with its elegant side box seats, ornately domed ceiling and layers of velvet curtains. He sits down in a straight back chair set center stage. That’s it. Well, okay a mic, on a stand. But nothing else on that huge stage. Just the man, the guitar, the chair and the mic. He warms up for a minute, probably even smoking a cigarette. And then it begins. I fall in love, He is mesmerizing. A moment in time to treasure. I am a lucky gal.

 

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Sunshine!

anne shirley 1

Anne Shirley of Green Gables talking to Matthew when he picks her up from the train station.

Recently an Etsy customer asks for an ARTBoard commission. Usually I get requests for Marcel the Shell commissions but this one is for an Anne Shirley of Green Gables quote.

This client has seen my other Anne with an e quotes and loves them. She wants her board background to be either a rainbow of color or a focus of blues and purples. She leaves it up to me but asks for a few stars scattered about if they will look good.

She puts down her deposit in the Commission ART Deposit section of my Etsy shop and after we discuss board size and price I work up a couple with her background color choices and send her photos.

She loves them both. I decide to put her quote on the blue and purple board as it is the size we talked about plus I am thinking it will be a better fit for the celestial theme room that she is decorating.

anne shirley 2

Anne to Marilla on the morning she is to be sent back to the orphanage because she is not a boy.

I complete the piece and take a look at the remaining board all primed and waiting for something cheerful. I decide to do another Anne Shirley quote and list it in the shop.

I set the original commission aside because I always like to live with a completed piece for a bit before sending a photo to a client to be sure everything stays satisfactory in my eyes.

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I made her a surprise bag to hold her art.

I read endless pages of script discarding perfect quote after perfect quote because none seem quite right for this rainbow board. Finally I find just the right one.

After both boards are ready I send photos to my client. At this point she is under no obligation to purchase anything although her deposit (which goes toward final payment) covers my work so that’s spent. I explain why I am sending her two photos and assure her that she is under no pressure to buy either but she can have both (or just her original board) for x monies.

“Sandy,” she replies, “I absolutely love both of these! You had no way of knowing, of course, but my friends call me Sunshine, because they know how much I love sunshine.”

She bought both boards.

 

 

 

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BO-JA-GI Wrap SandyBeachGirl Style

sea bassIf you’re Korean or have ever watched Korean drama or just in general know a lot about Korean culture then you probably know more about Bojagi wrap then me, but I’ve taken it to heart. Long before I had the idea to wrap my art in custom printed Bojagi wrap, which is my own spin off of this honored Korean centuries old tradition, I used old tablecloths or vintage fabrics to wrap gifts.

happy birthday bojagiI got that notion from watching Korean historical dramas that Emily introduced me to, Dong Yi and then Yi San. Everyone always wrapped and tied with a tidy knot any foods, a gift, almost anything that needed transporting in a covered manner in a serviceable cloth. I was intrigued and hooked. I did this for a short spell when we joined friends for dinner or we were gifting someone but everyone thoughtfully kept returning the clothes I used. That seemed to defeat the purpose of an effortless but recyclable wrapping and so I pondered a better way.

The idea of sponge block printing on scraps of fabric came to me as the perfect solution. I create letters for a message and shapes for accents and voila an instant Bojagi wrapping. And rather than knot the material I use package string to keep everything in place. Less material needed and less bulky to ship or transport.

Bojagi is the ideal name for my fabric wrappers because my brother used to call me Ja being unable to pronounce Sandra. Or rather JaJa which got shortened to Ja. And so there I am right smack in the middle of Bojagi.

bojagi wrapAny customer who orders a major piece of art from my Etsy store, SandraBallART, automatically gets a custom Bojagi. For littler pieces I’ll do the same but I add in a small fee. Any local folks that order art as a gift get a custom Bojagi wrap as part of the package.

Bojagi wraps SandyBeachGirl style are fun to make and stress free. It’s an outer wrapping so what if a little paint dribbles on the cloth or the letters are a bit hard to read because the paint bled. It’s Bojagi art. Recycled. Reclaimed. Renewed!

And feel free to jump on board the SandyBANDS express. Make wraps with your own unique style for fun or sale.  Start your own Bojagi business. You are so welcome to post your comments, photos or links here. We’re all on this planet together. Let’s take care of each other.

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It’s A T-Shirt With MY Design

bud hawaii

Bud, a Steve Kaufman acoustic guitar Kamp alumni several times over, playing for us in Hawaii. Yes our humble and perfect cottages were that close to the Pacific Ocean.

I’m not a commercial artist. This is what I tell three time national flatpik champion Steve Kaufman when I enter the design a t-shirt contest for his 2014 annual world renown acoustic guitar Kamp. Friend and father to our awesome daughter in law Terri, Bud Onstad, suggests that I enter this competition for one of his favorite camps.

I’m game. But being a fine artist I’m not at all trained in graphic design. My entry follows the guidelines which ask that Kamp name, location and year be included. I do all the lettering free hand. Real free hand.

My freshman year in college our art class is to design an album cover. I free hand the title with some snappy art and turn my idea in. My professor likes it and suggests that I free hand the final presentation. I do but tidy it up somewhat getting rid of wandering brush strokes. He chastises me asking why didn’t I stick to the free hand like he suggested. In my mind I had but I guess even a bit of tidying up dismisses the free hand aspect.

I email a photo of my entry to Steve and then forget about the contest. At RPI in Richmond studying fine art I am intrigued by the mysteries of the commercial art world. Maybe partly because fine art and commercial art students rarely mix. Each of us think that our world is the better. At a recent RPI reunion a group of curious current art students asks me if the different art department students kept to themselves when we were in school like they do now. I laugh. Some things never change.

guitar kamp

My art is everywhere!

Summer rolls around and the time for Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamp. I’ve not heard anything but did not expect to because after all I’m not a commercial artist. Still I have much commercial art student envy while at RPI. So much so that I take a commercial art class my last year. One assignment is to copy a Mondrian abstract as closely as possible. It’s one of those with a white background and various size intersecting black and primary color lines. Upon closer inspection of the photo we are working from I decide that the whites are not all the same tone and spend hours mixing just the right tweak to each white panel, carefully masking each before painting it in so no paint crosses into the wrong area. The project is small, 5×7 so it’s a tiny rendering. I am sure I’ll get an A or at the least a B. C- is crushing especially when my good friend, a commercial art major, who spends no time at all on her piece gets an A.

Now we’re to December 2014 in this story line. I get an email from Steve Kaufman, whom I have actually met when we went with Bud and lovely wife Amy to listen to him play at Cape Hatteras High School a few Januarys back. Steve deserves every accolade he gets and title he wins, his talent is incredible.

me and bud

Me & Bud sporting our shirts

Hi Sandy

I bet you thought I forgot about you. I really liked your design and wanted to hang on to it for the 20th annual. Do you think you can update the design and then send me the original?

20th Annual and 2015 are the only changes.

I don’t know if you still have the design there but I like it’s earthy approach. Let me know if this is possible.

Cheers and happy holidays–

Bye for now, 
Steve Kaufman

I have moved that piece of art around the studio so many times and almost thrown it out a couple of times. Can I even find it? I dig around and it surfaces. I make the changes, mail it off and a few weeks later get a nice surprise check in the mail. Then again I forget all about Steve and his Kamp.

kamp kard

Kamp note card

Imagine my astonishment when I get a post on my FB page from Bud while he is at Steve’s 20th annual Kamp, wearing a t-shirt with my design! And look there I am on Steve’s Kamp website and on Kamp note cards.

A few weeks after Kamp has ended Bud & Amy come to the beach for a visit bearing a t-shirt for me (well actually it arrived in the mail while they were here. Amy has sent it from Kamp). “Didn’t you know about this?” Bud asks. I tell him not really. I say that Steve never specifically says what he is going to do with the art. I figure he will just make posters or flyers. As I am putting this post together I see that Steve does mention saving my entry for his 20th annual acoustic Kamp. In hind sight that is pretty clear.

But still I didn’t expect to be the Kamp art star. Doing alright for not being a commercial artist.

bud finale

Goodbye Bellows Air Force Base. You were the perfect spot for a stellar Hawaiian vacation with Bud, Amy, Terri, Donald & Sebastian.

 

 

 

 

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The PERKS of Being A Polaroid Camera Girl

camera girlAlways looking for ways to make quick money in college, I beg friend Sharon Gates Buskell to take me on as a Polaroid Camera Girl. It is a perfect job. Polaroid provides equipment, film, and jobs. You just show up, take folks pictures and sell the attributes of the camera.  Sharon agrees and I am in.

I float from one gig to another. Pay is good and somehow much of the film designated for any job gets used before returning the equipment to Sharon. She doesn’t mind. She is the queen of spreading the perks of our job around.

otis reddingAt one of our school dances she brings her camera and takes pictures for a dollar apiece. Otis Redding is the headliner. In those days headliners hung with the crowd and partied as much or more than we did. I snag Sharon just as she reaches the last shot in her last pack of film.

Friend Sandy Baker and her date Stevie Wonder (she called him that because he was short and sexy), get wind of my goal. They want to be in on the action. I agree but I get to keep the picture. (Years later I send a scan to Sandy in Germany where she lit off for right after graduation and never came back). It’s one of the best dollars I ever spent. You can barely see “Respect, Otis Redding” signed on the photo sleeve but it’s there.

polaroidA few years down the road I’m finished with school but still working a few Polaroid gigs now and then. It is the point where I have just met Donny at Church of Our Savior in Sandson. The annual Christmas bazaar is gearing up. Becky Upton has put Donny & I together making games for the kids. Donny makes my bean toss idea into a reality. First of a bazillion crazy ideas of mine he makes real. We have hit it off. But possibly the deal sealer that put us on our lifetime path together is when I volunteer to take Polaroid photos for bazaar goers in exchange for a few dollars to the bazaar funds. I have film. I have flash bulbs. I do not have a camera. Donny offers his Dad’s Polaroid. It has not seen a lot of use and needs batteries. Donny takes me to Sandston Pharmacy where I meet the local druggist, Tony Mehford. He considers us a couple and chats for a long time. And in hind sight I have just had my first date with my lifetime partner. The perks of being a Polaroid Camera Girl.

 

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My Little Sunshine OBX = Success

val

Val beaming as she heads off to the store.

May 1, 2015 marks the grand opening of good friend and soon to be family, Valerie Netsch’s, awesome store, My Little Sunshine OBX. It’s a blend of new and may as well be new off beat items for that youngster everyone has at least one of or knows someone that does.

When she tells me of her plans I am in awe of all the work ahead. I cannot get beyond the thought of hangers and tags by the hundreds. Plus everything else that goes into opening a new store. But she’s done this before so she knows the drill. Val and Robert knock it out in their impressive to witness work ethic mode. All the while smiling. And being cleverly creative as well as economical.

My job is encouragement plus a plethora of little people SLAPBoards I create just for her shop. And some SandyBands for the younger set of course. And lastly, I need to be sure that she is launched properly. I dream that I am her first official paying customer (she is so successful at marketing she has people begging to buy before opening day). And so I set out to make it so.

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My Little Sunshine OBX

I arrive a bit before 10AM. I sit a few minutes in the car and then go up to the door. Val and helper Gail are doing last minute things. Like try to figure out just where the key to unlock the iPad is so music can be played. Tiny panic when Val thinks that she has thrown it away. It’s found. Music floats through the air. I select my items and hand Val paper money. Who keeps their first dollar bill anymore but I think it’s a fun tradition and want her to have all the right karma. She takes a picture of it.

Customers are filling the store. A lady checks out. I’m not sure if she uses cash or credit, but I am next with my real purchase using my credit card. Surprise for goddaughter Haley Rea when she graduates. Donny later tells me that he thought of Haley when he saw the item too.

So I may have been first cash and credit customer on opening day. At any rate my job is done. I have brought my dream to fruition. And brought in customers for Val. Not that she needed me for that. But Donny & I are awesome customer magnets. Everywhere we go a shop can be completely empty and sheer moments after we step inside it fills up. We have considered hiring ourselves out. Customer magnet anyone? We are willing to travel.

Congratulations Valerie! You are a ray of sunshine in everyone’s life and your store beams.

 

 

 

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All You Need is LOVE

The original Wellington Rabbit

The original Wellington Rabbit

“Write that it is all about love,” the bunny whispers in my ear. He tells me that Easter is slipping in popularity and his story will help fix that. I listen and write exactly what he tells me. But before that happens, this happens.

A long time ago, call it two decades, Easter approaches. The children have always received a stuffed animal, often one of the Beatrix Potter ones. I ponder how to make it work this year as we have no money for traditional Easter bounty. I decide to make them each a stuffed animal since I already have fabric and stuffing on hand. I quickly pump out five identical rabbits complete with a cape and a sack full of colored cloth eggs.

The first book.

The first book surrounded by the entire thirteen. Twenty years. 10,000+ words. 100+ illustrations.

Then I decide that the bunny needs a name and an introduction. A simple paragraph turns into a page and then more over the next few years. Other stuffed animals depicting the central characters emerge. The pages become a book, Wellington Easter Rabbit or the True Tale of How Wellington Became the Easter Bunny. He tells me what to write and I faithfully do so.

The first book is stitched together on my sewing machine. I make a pen and ink drawing of Wellington for the cover. This is great they all say, friends and extended family by this time. But we need more. Illustrations. Divide the book into chapters Donny suggests. So demanding, but they are right.

I get to work. Over the next few years their ideas for book 1 come to fruition. And then slowly at first but gradually picking up speed books 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on until book 13 (the final book in the series completed last year) become a reality. Some years Easter is so early and we are so busy that I only get half written.  By this time the book has a format. Three pages per chapter, one illustration. Ten chapters. The half book years it is a to be continued offering.

Every year I wait until the eleventh hour to begin writing. I am always amazed at how well the story comes together. I mean I do know where it’s going, just not how it’s going to get there. Donny my incredible editor is always there to drop everything and see that the book looks as good as it reads. He polishes and polishes and then we make a dash to get books in the mail (because by this time the children are grown and have children of their own) in the nick of time.

This year I am somewhat relieved to not have the self imposed pressure of The Book to write. But I miss it and at almost the eleventh hour (again) decide to create a new series. A simple set of easy to read books using all the characters from the original series as they fit into the story. And so happy readers I introduce you to the Wellington Rabbit Adventure Series, book 1, The Case of the Disappearing Eggs. Love! Sandy & Wellington

Wellington Rabbit and the Case of the Disappearing Eggs

Wellington Rabbit and the Case of the Disappearing Eggs

 

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How I FLUNKED Student Teaching

“You got an F,” my advisor, Mrs Hyland, tells me as I sit in her office one fine, until that point, spring day. Oh shit. I stare at her speechless. I don’t even want to be in Art Education and here I am flunking my main class. I want to be a Fashion Design major. But when I can’t find the department head in her domain at the apex of a set of tight winding stairs on the top floor of the library, I set out for the Art Education Department.

carriage house

Richmond Professional Insitute Art Education Department

Mrs Hyland is easier to locate. She holds court above a carriage house in the alley behind the library. “You don’t want to go into Fashion Design,” she tells me. “All they do is cheat and copy each other’s designs.” Mrs H advises me that Art Education (which is what mom wants me to pursue anyway, always a job she reasons) covers a broader range of art. She tells me to take a few fashion illustration courses as electives instead. Her reasons sell me.

My last semester senior year student teaching assignment is at Westhampton Junior High School. An easy car trip from school. But I don’t have a car. Luckily friend Gordon, who is dating dorm mate Frances and has his own apartment near our school, drives to his classes at the University of Richmond TC Williams School of Law daily. He offers to take me and then I catch the no transfer needed city bus back to school. Some of the student teaching assignments will have taken me far afield causing me to spend a great portion of my day getting there and back. I feel really lucky.

westhampton

Front door of Westhampton Junior High School

I am at home at Westhampton. I started my school career in these very halls. I love the two buildings with huge class rooms and high ceilings. They are joined by a broad window lined hallway. The art room is in the English basement of the smaller building. My meeting with Mr Phil, as I will call my nemesis, is stiff. He advises me to sit beside his desk and observe. He encourages no conversation. This goes on for a week or two. I am to note his style of teaching and means of handling the classes. It is very formal for every grade, kindergarten through eighth. No talking. Everyone draws or paints the same thing. At the end of class all tools such as scissors and pencils must be put away in a very precise manner. During clean up when there is painting, all brushes must be very thoroughly washed and lined up by side by side.

I finally get so bored watching the same routine that I start sketching in my note pad to pass the time. The students are intrigued and look over my shoulder every chance they get. Exchanging smiles is the closest to talking we dare try. Finally the day comes when Mr Phil says that I am to take over and he leaves the room. He never comes back. Later I hear that he sat in the boiler room down the hall taking notes.

The front lawn of Westhampton Junior Primary School

The front lawn of Westhampton Junior High School

I am elated. And terrified. I know nothing about teaching art. But I do know a lot about kids. And art. I gather my wits quickly and we begin. Slowly at first. Simple free hand drawings. Then fill the paper paintings. Who cares if some gets on the desks, they clean up well. The weeks add up. We create papier-mâché masks using balloons for a base. It’s a glorious mess. The finished masks are stunning. I take everyone outside on sunny days for class on the massive front lawn with its huge shade trees. The upper grades make detailed dioramas. The little people write and illustrate simple stories.

We are in love. My students and I. One of my older students talks about me so much that her parents invite me over for dinner. They tell me how she goes on and on about how wonderful I am. The end of my tenure arrives. When the teen boys ask what they can get me as a gift I say a beer. I am teasing. I really don’t want them to get me anything. They meet me at the bus stop on that last day brown bag in hand. I am contributing to juvenile delinquency. We hug goodbye.

Mrs Hyland sighs as I unsuccessfully try to avoid her stern look. “It was a bad pairing. I thought you would be good for him.” I start to rise from my chair of doom, another semester of student teaching hard on my brain. What will my parents say?

And then these words float across the abyss, “I changed your grade to a C. I know you are better than that.”

 

 

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Not That Gecko

Horseshoe gecko by Charlie

Horseshoe gecko by Charlie

Go away Geico. I don’t need you or your gecko. I have a better one. See. And mine is a gift. A surprise gift. Made of recycled horseshoe pieces with horseshoe nails for toes.

He’s really grey but when I was tweaking the photo I liked the way the green color changed in the background. So I left it. Because like Charlie says, explaining why he paints some of his geckos and not others, geckos change color to blend in with their surroundings. My gecko is doing exactly that.

Horseshoe gecko arrived in the mail yesterday. I really haven’t ordered much lately and was pondering what I did order that I forgot about as I opened the package.

Dear Sandra,

Sorry for taking so long to get this to you. This is the second of my horseshoe geckos (my wife Sheila got the first one). The first one I made I used new horseshoe nails for the toes. I went to the horseshoe supply store and they were closed. So yours is even made with used horseshoe nails (totally recycled). I didn’t paint it, geckos take on the color of their surroundings and you’re probably a much better painter than I. Hope you like it.

Charlie Desert Flats Farm

No, Charlie I don’t like it. I LOVE it!

Charlie and I met on Etsy. His shop Desert Flats Farm Store caught my eye when I was creating an Etsy Treasury. He had some awesome sculptures made from recycled cool stuff and so I added one to my Treasury. Charlie thanked me and we chatted a bit about our shops. He liked my BitchSLAPBoards. I told him that I collected quotes from everywhere and had more than I could paint. He followed with, Here’s one more quote to add to dilemma. It’s from a friend of mine. “It’s not that I’m unambitious. It’s just that I started at the bottom and liked it there.”

I loved it and told Charlie I’d put it on a board for him which I did. I added another board into the mailing for fun, one that Charlie had admired. When Charlie & Sheila got their package they were delighted.

geckos

Desert Flat Farms geckos

Dear Sandra,

Thank you very much for the signs, they’re Great!!! I’ll show the one to my friend “Big Al” when I talk to him next. I have an idea of what I want to send you. It will the first one I make, so it might take me awhile. I can’t believe that you can look out your window and see where the Wright Brothers made their first flight. When I look out my back door all I see is a little mountain, well not too little of a mountain, okay, a big mountain called Pikes Peak.

Thanks Again Talk to you Soon

Charlie & Sheila

 

 

 

 

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