At the end of 2020 one of my final projects of the year was to create the 2021 family calendar. This one absolutely annihilated me. It is a tribute to the first sibling we have lost in my family.
I printed off the normal 8 for siblings and Mom, but I also printed off 5 for my brother Aaron’s children. Then every month I write each of them about the stories that are held in the photos of their Daddy and his childhood. It has been a hard year, but I will not regret that I did this.
Printed double-sided on 13×19 matte photo paper
This is year 16 of creating these and it will probably be my final. At this point, we can start reusing some of those I made before.
I continued to do some art after the first of the year because my nieces were begging me to continue teaching and coaching them, but I lost my spark for a number of months and am just beginning to get it back. So expect some fun posts as I catch up on what I have been doing.
2.5 months ago my baby brother, age 44, was told by his doctors that there was not a thing they could do for the colon cancer that he had battled for some time. His wife and 5 children chose to do home hospice so that they could be with him (covid rules-grrr). This past Wednesday he passed away after a valiant fight. I have learned to despise cancer!
My way of dealing with this was to spend time painting him as I remember him, and pushing myself to get better at portraiture through this, trying again and again. I want to use this grief as a force for good instead of letting it sink me. So hang in there with me, I will be posting more Inktober soon, and my brother will be my subject more than once, I am sure.
This year I finished my calendar in very good time and did not have to drag the project out through January! Yay! I made it easier on myself with large photos of Tennessee and photos of our ancestors from the Smokey Mountain area.
I have been doing this calendar for 14 year now (or was this 15 – I can’t remember!) For information on how they are made, you can look at an older post like last years.
This year’s family (13×19 inches) calendar was a study of the past 200 years in my family history. It is more research intensive than it is beautiful. The purpose of this piece is to place a family name to events in history. It is a personalized resource for my 25 home schooled nieces and nephews, as well as be a bouncing off place for the adults to research further. I concentrate heavily on the 1850s-1870s (pre through post Civil War) and the 1920s-40s (end of WWI, Depression, New Deal, up through WWII.)
I started out by creating silhouettes of my parents. Their silhouette goes on the page that corresponds with their family line being discussed. Elements include:
A map of the state and county of birth when appropriate
A box outlining historical events during the lives of the subjects
Any related photos to personalize
2017 head shots of kids in sepia
My main comment on this whole intense project – never again! But I am glad I did it.
Each page also features a 2017 photo of a niece and nephew in the lower right corner. The final page is an extra page with Jan 2019 to give myself a breather if I don’t get the new calendar done in time (like this year.) The oldest niece is on that page, which is not featured here.
This year the topic was my father’s life in the 1940s and 1950s.
Some favorite months:
As usual, it was quite the production, but the hardest part was pulling the story together from scattered information and secondly, managing so many photos per page. However, the Supervisor was quite pleased.
There are 2 things in life that really assist in my creativity – nature and ambiance. My new home has both! Wonderful ambiance of soft colors and open spaces. I often have soft music playing in the background, and now that it is cooler, a fire going.
The walkout basement is unfinished yet climate controlled and absolutely perfect for an art studio – the studio is in process. Hopefully I will have it fully organized and functioning by Spring.
But the bonus is the big windows looking out into a wild wood area, often giving us close to 50 birds at a time at our winter feeders.
In the summer we fed several hummingbirds and next year plan to keep the finch feeders going in the summer. The cats are in heaven and we have a lot of vantage points set up just for them (this house is very cat-centric.)
The dogs love the fenced in back yard and all the possums, turtles and other strange wild creatures they find that have wandered through or are occasionally still there in the morning. It keeps them on their toes.
We have swarms of the yellow goldfinches and a large amount of the red and brown house finches. We also have red winged blackbirds, chickadees, 4 pairs of cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches, mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, at least one red bellied woodpecker, snow birds (juncos), and loads of house sparrows (which are really English finches imported from England). Periodically we see a hawk or a Green Heron sitting in our trees.
And do not forget the feisty squirrels – we have 2 that I suspect are male and female.
I paint ornaments that capture memories. So what sort of ornaments would someone like me collect? Perhaps surprisingly, not always handmade (often coming from Hallmark). If it captures something important in my life, that is what makes it matter.
This year it was capturing my lifelong love of letter writing (as well as my dislike of our dog popping his cold nose on me):
Our whole tree is about memories. The fun is finding the meaningful each year.
When I was going thru college a couple of years ago, this one was perfect for my nostalgic heart – I love the old clock I played with as a child, but this captures my constant chasing the clock.
Retro Pooh is a favorite and this grouping reminds me of all the times I would read to my siblings on cold winter nights, as well as now to my nieces and nephews.
A shout out to my Mom who gave me the CB handle of Foghorn Leghorn.
But of course… (Peanuts is a favorite of mine anyway!)
But with all the fun we have, there is nothing that can touch the old Shiney Brites from my childhood for evoking deep yet soft emotions.
From Grandma’s tree —
So – what sort of tree do you have? Artsy, hodgepodge, memory collecting?
Have you ever run across something from your childhood that strikes a long forgotten emotional cord? That is what happened today when I came across these 2 paintings tucked among my stashed art resources such as frames and canvases.
As I stared at them I felt nostalgia, puzzlement, as well as deep pleasure of a found treasure. At the same time I was thinking, “What in the world did I save paint-by-numbers for?” Then I saw the initials.
No – that is not e.e.cummings, but these are the initials of my beloved uncle who introduced me to his writings!
Then the memories came flooding back of these hanging on my grandmother’s wall all my growing up years, painted by her son when he was still a young sprite battling polio in the 1950s or early 60s.
My uncle was one of the major influences in my very early artistic endeavors. What a precious find.
So what if they are paint-by-number; there is such a funky charm, as well as deep connected-ness to sweet memories and tender relationships held within these youthful, exploratory strokes. What a treasure.
I will hang them in my new art studio.
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
― E.E. Cummings