Tuesday, June 21, 2011

can I take a picture of your house?

tellow house

Well recently I have wanted to do a series of paintings of houses, I guess another series exploring the intimacy of our  spaces isn’t much of a stretch after my domestic series. For the past few months as I drive around I find my self staring at the windows of house. Something about the spaces we dwell in, they are pragmatic, sentimental, private. The echo the the spaces of our minds holding all our thoughts and emotions.

The problem is to paint houses you need study shots. I was afraid walking around taking pictures of houses in my small town might get me booked as a peeping tom and give our otherwise generally unoccupied police something to do.  So to avoid such unwanted escapades, I decide to make somewhat awkward introductions to my fellow townspeople. So last night after dinner I drove down by the center of town. I knocked on people’s doors, handing them a business card “Hi, I am Leslie, I live here in town, I am an artist. Your house in charming and I was wondering if I could take a few pictures of your house to used as references in a new series I am going to paint”. 

I have to say all my interactions turned out to be lovely. Once they understood what I was doing…. One woman admitted to saying the rosary when she heard someone knock on the door. Then we got into a discussion about ants and diatomaceous earth and she recommended I read some of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s short stories. Another woman at first thought I was soliciting commissions, but I explained no I didn’t intend to sell them to the owners of the houses at all. She then invited me in to see a painting they had done of their house years ago and actually asked if I would paint a portrait of her dog. The owner of the yellow house- was worried because it was under renovations and wasn’t done yet. Even just talking to these few people and taking pictures gave me a more intimate view of their lives and reminded me that it is only a mere moment that moves us from strangers to people connected.

Compositionally I want to play with the angles and parts (you know how I love to chop things off!) and vantage points. Exploring color, flattening out shapes and shadows. As I painted this one last night it felt a little like Wayne Thiebaud goes painting with Edward Hopper. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ancient Egypt Birthday Party Plan

cupSo my son decided he wanted an ancient Egypt theme for his 6th birthday party. So this is what we did. He invited 8 friends. We designed cool invitations with an Egyptian hieroglyph scene and printed them on gold paper.balloons We found these archaeologist hats at iparty and rubber tutsnakes at Wal-Mart and made pyramid favor boxes from 12” square sheets of paper from Michaels- which we filled with candies and small Egyptian figures from the safari limited ancient Egypt tube for the take home party favors. So here is how the party went down including all the games and activities. As the kids arrived they used our wooden blocks to build pyramids and cities out in the studio room. My 10 yr old son had designed an Anubis robot for the party and programmed him to chase the kids round- so the 6 year old boys were most impressed with that. Then we IMG_0142moved the kids into the dining room where I had set up the tables with individual cupcake decorating stations. Each child got to decorate IMG_01175 cupcakes.decor Each place had their own cupcake box, and plate of decorations. I piped out of chocolate Anubis heads, scarab beetles, vipers, eye of Horus, and ankhs and also filled candy papers with spoonful's of various sprinkles- gold, silver, chocolate, rainbow.The adults IMG_0121frosted and let the kids decorate them. Then we moved on to the cartouche station I set up in the breakfast nook. I spray painted canvas boards with gold paint then used a hieroglyph translator to write the IMG_0166kids names in hieroglyphs on the boards, they then decorated all around with feathers, gems, titles, pom poms, fabric pieces and some foam Egyptian shapes I got from oriental trading company. When they finished this we IMG_0178moved into the family room room for the mummy wrap game- we divided the kids into pairs, one was the mummy and one was the wrapper. They had fun using 2 rolls of tp to make their mummies and each pair wrapped differently. Then we went out in the yard for the Nile relay. We had crocodile grabbers which they used to pick up a jewel and run it down to a bucket of water. They then dropped the jewel in and used the grabber to pull out a long snake which they ran IMG_0188back to the start with. Everyone got to do 2 rounds. then we came in for tomb treasures memory. I put a bunch of Egyptian things on a tray we looked at all of them and they tried to memorize the group. Then we covered it with a blanket and they had to remember all the items. (We did have scarab beetle hot potato and duck duck goose variant pharaoh, pharaoh, mummy- but ran out of time) Then we had lunch, present opening, and cake & ice cream featuring the king tut sarcophagus IMG_0154cake. We decorated with gold balloons, yellow and black streamers to make pyramids. the party playlist included king tut (steve martin), walk like an Egyptian, the Theme from the mummy (instrumental) and some closeArabic music. The kids seemed to have a fabulous time and most of all my 6 year old told me it was exactly what he hoped for! I highly recommend it for a party theme there are so many fun things you can do with it.  For a full how to make a king tut sarcophagus cake tutorial you can read my post here.

(I do recommend moving the kids from area to area for the party it always helps with the general management of excited kids and you don’t loose a lot of time in the changing gears and set up)IMG_0131IMG_0130

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How to make a King Tut Egyptian Sarcophagus cake

IMG_0047My son requested an Egyptian theme for his 6th birthday party and wanted a king tut cake-and no not just the head—the whole sarcophagus. So I printed out a good image as a reference and attempted to craft one. here is my tutorial--

I used one batch of homemade pound cake. ( I would not recommend attempting to make this with a box cake mix or anything too soft) I cooked it in 3 mini loaf pans, IMG_0051one large loaf pan and one small 3” round cake. (I also made one extra mini loaf than I made two small squares with – as when my kids have a really fancy cake they want the candles stuck in some mini cake not in the big one)

I lined them up on my giant turkey platter and cut then to sculpt the general form. Then covered them in buttercream frosting and draped the entire thing in gold marshmellow fondant (mixed brown and yellow IMG_0053wilton colors to tint) I then sculpted the rest of the layers of fondant (hands, head dress, crook, etc.)

I then painted the entire thing with gold pearl dust mixed with clear vanilla extract. Then I used black, cyan,a deep prussian blue,(mixed cyan and black) and a red violet to pipe on all the details with a super fine round tip. I took some liberties to simplify  some of the details- because well it deserves just so many tuthours of my time and I am not a perfectionist. you can see here the finished project. I made the mini ankh and eye of horus cakes from the scraps as the mini “candle cake”. I used fondant tools and bamboo skewers to achieve fine texture and details. I have to say though he was very pleased with the finished project…

all I can say is if my son ever doubts that I love him I will pull out this picture ncaketo remind him- only extreme mother love- can drive me to spend an afternoon crafting a 2 foot long, 3-d sculpted, gold covered, king tut sarcophagus cake.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

SVU show

Last Wednesday at 10 pm I loaded up 30 paintings and headed down to Buena Vista, VA for SVU’s education conference. Thursday night I arrived and hung all the paintings before going to a delightful presenters dinner at the Knights. Friday I got to enjoy a wonderful collection of talk s and delicious food and a fabulous performance of man of La Mancha and stayed up late talking to my great friend Liz. Friday brought more delicious food and workshops and socializing. I spoke Saturday afternoon about my paintings. If you want to listen to my talk you can hear it here. All I can say is it was wonderful. I loved meeting so many people there, as well as seeing old friends. I had a wonderful response to the pieces. While most people would come up and ask why no heads, one woman’s first comment was “thank you for not painting the heads because it makes it so it could be me” (I was so excited and said – yes you got it!!), she later told me that seeing them gave her a feeling almost like narnia- she wanted to step inside and relive things gone by. Another man told me how one of piece really began to stand out to him and couldn’t look it without tearing up remembering times with his mother. It was so interesting to hear the reactions and connections of people of many different ages. I can’t believe the feeling of accomplishment and relief I felt finally completing the series and showing them. svu showIMG_9746IMG_9775IMG_9737