Like the butcher who backed into his meat grinder

I have gotten a little behind in my work. Not only am I a couple of days shy of my quota, but I haven't posted the mandalas I have done - it's been almost a week since I last had the time to write. My painting class, while exhilirating, has been very time-consuming. In addition, I've had a lot of paperwork for C's upcoming year in Savannah and Z's planned homeschooling/community college year.

N, meanwhile, has wanted to read as much as possible for the local library's reading program, so we've been busy with that as well. In addition to reading library books, this week we've revisited our shelf of "very favorite authors" in our home library, and it occurs to me that I haven't mentioned this, so I thought I'd talk about it this evening before moving on to mandalas.

I consider myself a bibliophile - perhaps even a bibliomaniac. Yes, we patronize the library heavily! but books are the gift of choice in both my and my husband's extended families. One of the many things we love about our house is the room that I suppose was intended as a livingroom but which we use as a library.

One long shelf contains children's books by our family's three favorite authors. The first, Daniel Pinkwater, I have enthused about before on this blog (see my entry on his latest novel, The Neddiad, from a month or two ago). Currently, N & I are rereading his Werewolf Club series, of which we own only one (the library has all the others, so we only needed to buy the one the library lacks). He has read several of his own books on tape (both children's and adult books); if you ever get a chance to hear him read, I highly recommend it, as his reading is full of very dry, droll humor that both kids and grownups appreciate.

When C was in 3rd or 4th grade, he wrote to some of his favorite authors, including Pinkwater. Almost all of them responded. He still has the postcard from Pinkwater, with a lovely self-portrait sketch and sweet personal note, and treasures it greatly.

The second author on the shelf is James Stevenson. Like Pinkwater, he illustrates his own books. The humor is somewhat different, drier and with a little sharper tang to it, but they have a lot in common under the skin. We first got to know him through his "Grandpa and Wainey" books, and when C wrote to Stevenson it was to ask if Grandpa was modeled after Stevenson's own grandfather, or after Stevenson himself, or just made up. Stevenson responded with an original drawing of Grandpa and the words "Grandpa is . . . just Grandpa!" The letter is stored in a plastic sleeve next to Pinkwater's. I think it says a lot about a person when (s)he takes the time to write to a child.

Anyway, Stevenson has several other series, including one about a little witch named Emma (beleaguered by two mean, older witches), another about the inhabitants of Mud Flats, and my special favorite series, the ones about The Worst Person In The World - a mean old man who cultivates poison ivy and is rotten to everyone. While I would have a hard time limiting myself to just one of these, I think the absolute best in the series is The Worst Person in the World at Crab Beach. The humor is so dry you're thirsty by the third page, but if you read it slowly and deliberately, with the right amount of sarcasm, kids pick up on almost all the jokes, although grownups appreciate them, too. And the ending is just lovely. I don't mean to make it sound mean-spirited, because it isn't at all! For a mean old grouch, he's quite lovable, and he doesn't teach children to be rotten. Anyway, for information on Stevenson, click on the title link.

The third author on our very favorites shelf is Demi. We love her in part for the many Chinese legends she brings to life, and for the legends, myths and biographies from other countries and religions that she tells. But most of all, we adore her gorgeous, stunning illustrations. She paints tiny, detailed people, animals and plants with such luminous and glowing colors that even very young children with relatively short attention spans just want to sit and stare at the pictures. I have never seen an illustrator to rival her, ever. Neither C nor Z ever wrote to her, simply because we never could find an address. It was only recently that I was able to track down her full name; for a long time the publisher was very secretive about that! Perhaps when N is a bit older she will want to write to Demi, as she is quite taken with her books.

I don't even remember any more which mandala came when, except for the most recent of all. So the first one I will post here is one I am counting even though it is not strictly a mandala - well, it's not round, anyway. It was an assignment for painting class - we were to do a modulated background with an object floating in it. I chose to paint my bobbing buddha, without his spring. I had to draw the buddha 10-15 times on paper before I felt comfortable trying to paint him, but it really did help to do that, so I'm glad I did.
The gold fans in the background were made by a fan brush. Z showed me how to do that. Everyone in the class was wowed by that use of a fan brush, & then I had to admit that that is the only way I know how to use a fan brush - apparently there is some other use for them! The canvas is 11x14.

I bought a vellum pad the other day, as I so much enjoyed using the small pieces of vellum for those chakra mini-mandalas at the beginning of the month. Onto one piece I glued some of the flowers N & I had pressed earlier this summer: Queen Anne's Lace in the center, surrounded by thistle, a ring of lavender and then some tiny daffodils and assorted other tidbits. I backed it with pale yellow paper, but that did not really come through in the photo.
I'm going to have to play around with flowers some more - this is kind of pretty, but rather uninspired. I think there's a lot more that could be done with flowers. My problem is that I'm too engrossed in the realm of paint right now. (But oh! the box in which the dried flowers are kept smells very nice!)

I said I'd post what N had been working on last time while I was mandala-ing. I gave her free rein with the glitter and glue, and much to my surprise and pleasure, she was extremely careful and didn't make nearly as much of a mess as I had feared. Here are her three creations - I think the second or third one would be fun to make into something with different fabrics, a sort of quilted piece to hang on the wall, some time when I am not in the middle of a painting class!
This next picture does not count as a mandala, either, but given how many hours and how much energy I spent on it, how VERY much I learned from doing it, the fact that I never thought I could do anything remotely approaching something like this, and the fact that it kept me from working on mandalas, I'm giving myself credit for a mandala with this. Since one of my primary reasons for creating mandalas is that the act of creation is a form of meditation for me, and the act of painting puts me in pretty much the same space, that doesn't feel like cheating.
I felt very self-conscious about this painting, esp. knowing that most of the other students in the class had taken painting and/or drawing courses before, and that most of them were art majors. But then when all the paintings were set up across the room from us, and I got to compare mine to everyone else's, I saw that mine really wasn't half bad - and that there were actually some that were not as good as mine! By the way, the distortions you see (the celadon vase and the cream pitcher being skewed) are artifacts of the photo - I couldn't get far enough away to take the picture & have it be straight. I actually didn't paint them crooked.

It's not masterful, but WOW! I learned a LOT!

Finally, another mandala on vellum. This was this week's "Mandala Monday." I took the design and placed it underneath the vellum, then colored it. Vellum is a little tricky to work on, in that gel pens don't stick well to it, so you have to color over with them a few times, and colored pencil must be pressed fairly hard - which makes shading a little difficult. But the translucence makes it all worthwhile. Whether it is backed with colored paper, or just left on its own (as in this mandala), it is so delicate that it positively glows, and I just love it! There is no metallic pen or pencil on this one, just the shading working with the vellum. Nice, eh?
So, as of 21 I was caught up. With these today, I make it 25. As of tomorrow morning, I will be three behind, which is do-able. I have a HUGE assignment this weekend for painting: another still-life, 18x24, as well as the complete plan for my final project, a mandala 24x24! I figure I will be painting that still-life all weekend in order to finish; the one above, also 18x24, took about 10 hours in 3 sessions. Oy. Vay, even.


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