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Easy DIY Father’s Day Plaque

I’m in a pensive mood tonight, and realize it would be quite easy to ramble on about any number of topics.  So I turned to my iPhone for inspiration.  I began scrolling through all the photos and videos stored within my happy little device (yes, I imagine it’s a happy device, it’s well loved and frequently held, I believe it would feel cared for and treasured much like the old rocking horse or velveteen rabbit).  That’s when I realized, I never did share the Father’s Day project we came up with for Pop Pop.  I suppose it’s about time I gave up a few details on that one.  🙂

My Dad is a squirrel nut (pun intended, obviously).  He feeds them at the lake, and collects pictures, stories and the like.  I’m not really sure how his collection started – it’s really only as old as the girl is… so it’s not a long standing one.  One day we just kinda all seemed to agree that we should give him squirrel related gifts, and thus a collection was born.  I have to say, it’s a better idea than the Xena Warrior Princess figurine my husband and I jokingly gave him a decade or so ago – gotta love a scantily clad warrior princess, right?  LMAO

So I had this idea, that the girl and I should create a squirrel crossing sign for him, you know… for at the lake.  Problem was, I couldn’t find the materials I needed.  What I did come across though, was this cool tree round with the bark still on.  I bought it, not quite sure what it would become, but I loved it and knew I’d figure something out.  By the time we got home?  I knew it would be the perfect canvas for a squirrel picture.

Now, I’m not a cartoonist.  Impressionism I can do – in fact, I spent a number of years working as an impressionist painter and illustrator (sold quite a few pieces too) before I traded in my brushes for a camera.  So I’m not lacking in some skill, but cartooning has never been my strength.  I even tried my hand at some basic folk art, gave the results to my siblings (who were still wee things at the time)…  I see them all the time at my parents place and… well…  yeah…  cartooning/folk art?  Was not my strength even back then.  So clearly I would not be freehanding anything.

While the girl was occupied, I did some looking online for a “squirrel colouring page”.   Thanks to Bing (yes, I bing rather than google stuff) I found a few super cute little doods.  I asked kid kid which was her favourite, and we had our inspiration.  I downloaded it, resized it, and printed it out.

Now, like I said… I’m not a cartoonist – but I do have a pretty good eye.  So what I did was to hold the print out in place over the wood, and using the back of a paint brush (no, I didn’t trade them ALL in), I traced/etched a few lines to help with the proportions.  I etched six or seven little notches, but I imagine you could actually do the entire drawing if you can’t freehand at all.  Personally?  I have no patience for things like that – but if you can’t draw?  I think it would work just fine.  Then I took out one of my paint pens (just a plain black one) and sketched the line drawing out.  If you did etch the whole thing, you could then just trace over your etching to give you the black outline.  That gave me this:

A squirrel for pop pop

If you look closely at the paper, you can see where I’ve etched/traced a line here and there.  And comparing the two you can easily see the differences too.  LOL  But it’s not about creating an exact replica, it’s about having something that gives the impression of what you are creating.  Clearly, that doesn’t look like a REAL squirrel…  but you see it, and you know that’s what it is.  So whatever you create, the idea is for it to give the impression of the thing.  If you can tell what it is?  You’ve succeeded.  🙂  And for us, this particular squirrel holding a strawberry is significant.  I’ve called Lily-Ann “my strawberry” since the day she was born.  So finding a colouring page illustration of a squirrel holding one?  Pretty cool….  and I think that’s what swayed the girl to this particular free use image.

After the black ink was dry, I just let the girl have at it.  She painted it.  And to be honest?  I was actually downright shocked at how well she did.  She was only four at the time!  At one point she even had me stumped:

“Momma?”  she asked.

“Yes Lily-Ann.”

“Can I have the white paint again?”

“What do you need white for?”

“The strawberry.”

“Oh…  you don’t need white on the strawberry, do you?”

“Yes Momma, I do.”

So I dug out the white paint again (totally thinking she was going to make a mess of the very pretty berry she’d already created).  You can imagine my surprise when my girl, who doesn’t do anything gingerly or daintily, ever so carefully touched the very tip of her brush into the paint and dabbed a tiny highlight on the strawberry.  I shouldn’t have doubted her, or questioned her vision, but she showed me.  LOL  She knew exactly what she was doing.  And here’s the result:

The finished plaque - a pretty painting for Father's Day of a delightful little red and brown squirrel.

After it dried it just needed a couple of coats of sealant (which I did without the girl, don’t need her breathing in that scary stuff) and it was ready for Father’s Day.  All in all, a very cool project.  We had fun doing it, it turned out fabulously – and was well received.  A successful project to store in the memory bank.  🙂

Andy Warhol Made Me Cry!

On the Saturday, we all bundled onto a city bus in Edmonton and headed to the AGA (the art gallery).  For a few of us, there were loads of goose bumps and chills.  The idea of seeing Andy Warhol’s work in person was… well… thrilling.

We walked into the gallery in a coagulated pool.  People jostling against people, trying to fit our large numbers into a small space.  Like blood through arteries and veins, we were rushed through doors, stairs, and corridors.  We were split into two groups, and I – quite on purpose – waited to see which direction Zac and Robyn were ushered.  Zac was as excited as I was, and I knew I wanted to be near someone who understood, and got just how amazing an opportunity this was.

Sitting at long wooden tables, now split apart into two rooms.  We were each passed a sticker.  A red word bubble with the letters AGA in white.  I was wearing a button featuring a photograph of myself that Zac had taken earlier with the words “in flux” boldly displayed.  So I figured how better to wear a speech bubble than to have myself proclaiming the text located within it.  I stuck it to my portrait.

me and my button

 

From there, we were further split into another two groups.  Our table and one other went off with a tour guide who’s name I had written down with a bunch of other things I’d hoped to share – including artists names, quotes, and other tidbits…  I, however, seem to have lost this paper – much to my disappointment.

We went up several flights of stairs, and were stopped at the top of a particularly dreadful set.  We were instructed to look up, which almost sent me spilling backwards.  Zac and I both chose, instead, to look at Robyn’s shoes – as we were both feeling rather nauseous at the effect.  Staring at her shoes for several minutes we waited until instructed to move forward.  We listened to what was being said, but chose not to look back up again until we were off the steps – and then encountered no problems looking around and enjoying the interesting architecture.

Our first stop took us directly into the Warhol exhibit.  At first I found it interesting.  Moving around that first room, seeing such famous and highly popularized images.  It was very cool seeing his work in person.

Then I moved on, into the second room – slightly ahead of the group which was still (for the most part) enjoying the work in the first room.  It was there that I saw her.  Marilyn Monroe.  In black and white, her face blown up to what had to have been three or four feet.  And I was overwhelmed.  The tears came on instantly.  No warning.

The woman working in the room, an expert on the exhibit, came over…  She understood.  She said the same thing happened to her – but it was when she saw Jackie Kennedy, who’s portrait hung on the next wall over.

This instantaneous flood of emotion was completely unexpected.  This was an iconic image I had seen over and over again.  I grew up with this piece of pop art, this bit of culture.  In books, on posters, in magazines.  This was an image I thought I knew, but discovered very quickly I knew little.

It was beautiful.  So much more so then I ever could have imagined.  Larger than life in every possible way.  It really was overwhelming.

I found myself having to look away.  I thought the feelings would pass, that I would be able to see her, see how he saw her…  Just appreciate being able to have this glimpse of this iconic beauty through his eyes…  but no.  The longer I looked, the more emotional I became.  In the end I had to walk away.

I had no trouble seeing all of Warhol’s smaller works: his wigs, photographs of himself dressed in drag, screen tests, photographs, all fine.  But witness anything large?  Famous works like The Last Supper screen printed in duplicate on pink as tall as I am and four times as long?  Yes, that too sent me into the same overwhelmed state.

In one way I was relieved when it was time to move on…  in another, I wished I could have laid on that gallery floor and just let the release continue.  I can’t quantify exactly what it was that caused such an overwhelming rush.  I can’t identify one emotion even.  It was just a sense of being totally and completely overwhelmed by something I thought I knew, but so clearly did not.  I wish I could go back to the gallery today.  On my own.  And just BE in that space.  No tour.  Just me, Andy, and Marilyn.  I’d like the opportunity to get to know them both a whole lot better.

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