Maria made something that has been pure holiday magic. Her gift has been giving me a daily smile and inspiration, as we countdown the days until Christmas.
In her secret workshop, Maria created this little book, A Little Pocket Advent Calendar. I love it. I love each handmade page, the glitter, the thought and effort, the ideas, and suggestions. I have been waking up with a bit of that Christmas wonder I remember feeling when I was her age... excited, eager, full of hope, ready to see something special in the day.
We ordered Mexican hot chocolate when we met our friends for breakfast.
She's not insistent on doing exactly what the book suggests. We made cranberry bars, and shared them with friends. We'd still love to host a cookie exchange.
Her beautiful origami! This reminds me of the beautiful ornaments my mother made from Christmas cards. I bet Maria would love to recreate those.
Now this one we really went for! We invited a few friends to come and make flowers with us. Carol and Leo were down for an impromptu playdate, and we made some tissue and napkin blossoms.
These lyrics, "Oh, the weather outside is frightful," are ringing true, but we have nothing at all like snow in California! We are under a Purple Flag Warning in our county, and further north, things are far more dire. We've had our fill of wildfires and evacuations in our lives, and so at the end of the day a little make-believe and home comforts were very much welcome. As real winds blew, we slipped into our pajamas and watched It's A Wonderful Life.
Yes, more home comforts, and simple pleasures. I am looking forward to this evening, and all the days ahead. This time of year can be hectic, and full of urgent demands, but Maria's gift is making a nice difference, every day, and sweetly reminding me that it's a wonderful life.
At the end of 2016, I turned fifty, and a friend dared me to try 50 new things, in the year, as an exercise in growth, a challenge to make adventures, seek new experiences. And, of course, the New Year prompts us to think of resolutions. I decided it would be a new thing to be an art student. I have dabbled, and been wishful, all my life... "Gee, I wish I were an artist. Golly, I'd like to paint pretty things." But I hadn't seriously applied myself, practiced, pushed through the phase where I made truly awful stuff, or endured the dull practice-practice-practice. So, I made a New Year Resolution... be an art student, an amateur. Be humble, ask questions, try different styles, and practice-practice-practice. I made myself buy a sketchbook, and I didn't tear out the bad sketches, or lean too heavily on an eraser. I just kept trying. And... the really hard part is sharing. No. Actually... even a little bit harder than letting people see what I've painted, is looking through Pinterest, or Instagram, or in books and magazines, and seeing beautiful art, skilled works, talent, success. Knowing that, even with all my practice, all my earnest attempts, I am still in a phase of truly awful stuff learning. I am a student, and amateur... to love. Maybe my best talent is in being familiar with my humility, so that I can encourage others to try something new, take a chance, be unskilled and open to discovery. It's not easy, but I feel thankful to have taken the chance, to have begun.
Sharing is hard. And sometimes it feels like my greatest success is not dipping my dirty brush into my tea. I don't have to share, I know. And I'm not sharing all of them... I counted 89 paintings done since the end of December, last year. So, what makes me dare to share? I think it helps me gage my progress, and it forces me to work harder. I know I need practice, to gain more skill, and work at learning. Honestly, I am more convinced that I should stick with chicken wrangling than pursue art. Retreating would be a relief... almost.
When I began all this painting, I stuck to the dare... to paint a variety of subjects in a variety of styles, even pushing myself to tackle "hard" things, like architecture, anatomy, realism. Eventually, I found myself drawn to rat-mouse-people. So, what's with all the rats? I even have a Ratty-Rat" label. I think it's to do with Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, the dearest ratty-rat ever. She inspired a lot of wishful art daydreams, because I wanted to depict her, her sweetness, her appeal, and charms. She was like a little person, with personality. She was enchanting, and I wished so much I could convey everything I loved about her, create adventures and stories she could visit, live in.
And so, it's mostly rats. Rats that could be mousy, and are a bit like dear little people, Borrowers, maybe. Pure fancy, whimsical, hopeful. Ratty-rats by an amateur, for me to love.
Works in progress. I keep sketching and practicing. I still attempt new subjects, like a dog, or a snowy village. I cringe seeing them in photographs, because the flaws seem to blow up, glaring at me, taunting me. I think, oh, that needs work. And the shading is all wrong. How did I miss that spot? But. Never mind. They are works in progress, like me.