Hindsight is 20/20, especially when you are a 37-year-old mother of 3 who just wrapped up a day of sidewalk chalk art, and you’re comparing a piece you did 2 year ago to a piece you completed for a gig today (see above!). I’ve been very lucky this year. I’ve been given some amazing opportunities to create chalk art for some amazing people and organizations. One thing that always come up when I’m chatting with on-lookers is how I got started chalking. It’s pretty simple, and you can read about it HERE if you really want to. But, something that wasn’t in that original story, and something I include in my story now that I’m chalking on a regular basis is this: my 9th grade art teacher told me not to waste my time on art.
Let me say that again, differently…An adult who had a job teaching children to use, understand, and appreciate art told a 14-year-old girl, who believed what adults in a position of authority said, to not waste her time on it. Told a girl who loved to draw not to waste her time. Told a girl who had sketchbooks full of floor plans, paintings, sketches, cartoons, and fashion designs not to waste her time. Told a girl who would pause Disney VHS tapes so she could recreate an image not to waste her time. Told a girl who would paint end pieces of a 2×4 to look like books and houses not to waste her time. Told a girl who would decorate river rocks with markers and paint and glue to not waste her time…
So she didn’t waste her time. And she didn’t draw again, until she was a 34-year-old mother of 3 who was filling her time while her children played outside.
I haven’t really thought about that very much until today. That’s probably why I’ve dusted off the ol’ blog for an entry. But it makes me sad, and a little misty eyed for that girl. Looking at the progress I’ve made as an adult just these last 3 years makes me wonder how I might have progressed as a teenager if I’d been given a better opportunity. Or, at least been given ANY opportunity.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I didn’t fall into a black pit of teenage despair. Since I love to sing, I pursued a fun and fulfilling chorus and musical theater career in high school. Some of my favorite people in the world are people who were part of that chapter of my life, and I wouldn’t trade them, or the time I spent on stage, for all the art lessons in the world. But people aren’t hiring me to sing for them today. They ARE hiring me to create chalk art for them.
I’ve learned a lot in the last 3 years, and I’ve gained a small, but flourishing, network of creative geniuses. They are some of the most amazing artists I’ve ever met, and better mentors than any high school art teacher I could have asked for. They have been supportive, informative, critical, and compassionate. I appreciate their honesty, friendship, and direction more than I can ever express to them.
But I would like to say to my 14-year-old self, you don’t have to listen to everything adults tell you. Most of the time they mean well, but they might drop the ball. Don’t let your ball get dropped. If it does, pick it up and carry it yourself. Don’t stop drawing. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop creating. The fire of creativity is a passionate flame that will only be squelched for so long. Fan that flame, girl. Fan it!
If you know me you know I’m a HUGE Wicked fan. I’ve seen the show several time, and my favorite Halloween costume includes green face paint. I couldn’t wait until I my kids were old enough to go with me, and 5 years ago I took K to see the show when she was just 6! I had a whole day planned, including lunch at the theater prior to the show and an 18″ Madame Alexander Elphaba doll (you can call her the Wicked With of the West if you want, but we don’t!). K has loved that doll for a long time, but has only recently been playing with her more. Maybe that’s odd for a 10.5 year old to be playing more actively with a doll, but I love it and I hope she keeps playing with her!
The thing about these dolls that I can’t ever work around is the hair. I don’t have a whole lot of it, and my daughters have pretty simple locks as well. Seems that as soon as you unbox a doll her hair goes straight to frizz and there’s not much you can do about it. I got one of those doll brushes they recommend you use with the wire bristles, and that did about zilch for poor Elphie’s mangled mane. I figured she’d always have a ball of black, matted doll hair on her head, and life went on. I’d managed to get it in a messy braid to keep it at bay, and K didn’t seem to care one way or another.
However, in the last few days, Elphie and K have been hanging out more. It made me sad to see that beautiful green face surrounded by a rat’s nest!! So, I took to Pinterest because I knew I had pinned a doll hair remedy in the past for just such occasion! I found one on Simply Clean Living that looked like it fit my needs. I rounded up supplies, and got to work on Elphie!
As you can see, she looks like a hot mess!! The first thing I did was take out the braid that has probably been in her hair for, oh, I don’t know, 3 years!
Next I mixed 8 oz of water and 1 oz of Snuggle Fabric Softener Liquid in a jar. I shook it up and poured it on Elphie’s head over a plugged sink. Then I rubbed it through to the ends and let it sit in the mixture for a few minutes. Right away I could pull the previously snarled hair apart.
I towel dried her hair, and mixed another 8oz water and 1 oz fabric softener in a spray bottle. Then I took to sectioning it off and working the knots out. Some parts work better with a wide tooth comb. Some parts worked better with the wire doll’s brush. You just have to try it out and see what works best for your doll’s hair.
There were times I had to lay her down on the floor with her hair laid out flat and rake the brush though it. She lost quite a bit of hair, but honestly, you can’t really tell. When I was done, the ends were still so frizzy and bulky. I figured I’d try using my curling iron to smooth it out. I did very small sections at a time, and it worked well for me.*
*NOTE: Adults ONLY should attempt the curling iron on the LOWEST SETTING!!!!!! A doll’s hair is synthetic, and can melt if the heat is too high! Be sure to test a tiny, hidden section before you go crazy with your iron.
It didn’t smooth out the frizz completely, but it did make it so much better. I pulled up the sides of her hair like she had originally had it styled and K redressed her in the 18″ doll Elsa dress she got for Christmas.
And there you have it! Another Pinterest win. Be warned though that if your doll’s hair is as bad as Elphie’s was it WILL take you a long time. I want to say that it took me about 2 hours to get her hair under control, but I think it was worth it. And, seeing K’s face when she saw Elphie’s fresh look was definitely worth the effort.
We’ve recently moved to a new neighborhood, and my oldest daughter is having a hard time finding her groove at her new school. She’s less than excited to go, even though she is a good student and her grades aren’t suffering, she’s just not sure where she fits in yet. So when she came home last week and said that her homeroom teacher was having a contest for the best Valentine’s box I knew we just HAD to make something awesome!!
A friend of mine had posted a Pinterest find of a Minion Valentine’s box that he’d made for his daughter, and I told K maybe we should make that one. While we were searching for Pinspiration, she asked if we could make a Unikitty box. If you’re not familiar with her, Unikitty is a character from The Lego Movie, and I have to say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE Unikitty. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and after a few internet searches of of other successful (and not so successful) Unikitty boxes I knew we could pull it off.
I brainstormed for a few days about what materials to use, aside from some left over moving boxes, and landed on the local party supply store for most of what I needed on the cheap. I think I spend a total of $10.00 on supplies, and I have plenty left over for another Unikitty if the need ever arises.
Here are the supplies I used:
- 2 empty recycled Amazon boxes
- 1 roll of pink wrapping paper
- 1 roll each of white, raspberry, caribbean blue, yellow, and lime green crepe paper streamers
- 1 pack of white paper party cups
- 1 roll heavy duty packing tape
- Plain, white shipping label stickers
- Black construction paper
- 1 empty, square tissue box
- 1 recycled piece of stiff styrofoam packing material
- a compass
- a circle cutter
- misc. markers
We started by taping the empty boxes shut, and wrapping them like a present, making sure to cut a hole in Unikitty’s back since this would be used to collect valentines. Then we wrapped white crepe paper around the bottom of her head; blue, yellow, and white crepe paper around the bottom of her body; and green crepe paper around a cup that was cut to be used as her neck. Then we cut out 2 black construction paper “humps” to put on the front and back to show the leg space. I cut the tissue box in half on an angle for her ears and I cut her tail out of the styrofoam which I then colored in with a blue permanent marker. We slapped it all together with a lot of tape, and called it a night.
I’m going to be honest, and tell you that I wasn’t entirely sure how we were going to pull off her face. I had a couple of ideas, but nothing was really hitting me as the one. Then a friend of mine mentioned that she was printing off images on sticky shipping labels and I had my “Ah ha” moment. I had a whole pack of sticky shipping labels!!! So, that’s what I’d use for all of her facial features. I also didn’t want to do “EVERYTHING” on this project, so the nice thing about using the labels was that I got to draw them, and K got to stick them onto the face. Using my circle cutter I cut out 2 large circles for the eyes and used a compass to draw the pupils and irises which were colored with permanent markers. I cut out 2 small circles for her eye highlights, and 2 more circles for her cheeks, which I colored pink with a permanent marker. Her nose and mouth were just free-hand drawn, colored with permanent markers, and cut out with scissors.
Her horn was another hurdle to overcome, and I tried a few things before deciding to just glue several of the paper cups together in an ascending stack. When they were dry we covered the top 2 cups with the blue crepe paper. For her ears, I just wrapped them in the raspberry crepe paper. I made her large white face detail out of 1 sticky label and traced the lid of an oval roaster. Yes, you read that correctly, I went into my kitchen, got the lid to a roast pan out, and traced it on the sticky labels.
Our final step was placing the face stickers. I have to say, my mommy OCD was in full force, and it was SO HARD not to take the stickers out of K’s hand and just do it myself!!! But I didn’t and she did a great job!!
We loaded up the car this morning and drove to school since we didn’t want to risk a beheading on the bus! She walked in proud as a peacock, and it made my mommy heart so happy to see her smiling face as people on the sidewalk commented on her box.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t do enough for my kids. Sometimes I KNOW I don’t. Sometimes I wonder what they’ll remember about being a kid when they have kids of their own. But I am pretty sure that this is a memory K will always have, and I’m so very lucky to have been there to help make it happen.
We’re not a big Barbie house. I got my oldest daughter her first Barbie when she turned 8, and it was with much chagrin on my part. While I didn’t want to get the doll, she really wanted one since her friends had them, and the girls would all take them outside to play. Now, before you say, “But, Tiff, you’re the parent! You make the choice as to which toys your child plays with,” I totally agree with that, and hence why Barbie hadn’t been allowed in our house for the first eight years of my motherhood. So, after much debate with myself, I agreed to a doll on one condition. She had to have a job, and Pediatrician Barbie came to live with us. She was played with on occasion, but tossed to the side for more steadfast toys like the play-kitchen and legos (primary and pastels sets,thank you very much). I haven’t seem much of Barbie these days. K is 10 now and still not interested in “fashion dolls”. B is only 5, but since K isn’t really into those dolls and they aren’t in our toy rotation she doesn’t seem to notice their absence. My girls tend to like the bigger dolls they can cuddle and carry. We have a few DVD’s that were gifts years ago, and a game that was free on an old iPad.
Because of the lack of pink in our house, I was kind of surprised by my reaction this morning when my friend, Allie posted an article talking about a new Barbie picture book that is causing waves far and near on the planet. My first reaction was, what’s the big deal? It’s just Barbie, this is nothing new. But then I read it, and I read what intelligent people, men and women were saying about this book. After wading through the mockery and the whining and the complaining that seems to be attached to EVERYTHING these days, I was irked too by this book. Not just because Barbie needed help with her project. Not just because she went to guys for help. Not just because she was only designing her project but not actually coding it. No, all of those things bugged me, but the thing that stood out the most for me was how this book made me feel reading it.
Before I continue, let me say that I am 36. I am the mother of 3, two girls and a boy. I do not have a college degree, but I have taken some college classes, and I am a certified medical transcriptionist. I am not this book’s target audience. However, I had the target audience sitting right next to me on the floor while I was reading the article and thusly the book.
The thing that I couldn’t shake after reading this colorful picture book was that Barbie screws up, doesn’t seem remorseful in the least, gets the help she needs from other classmates, takes all the credit for all the work, and still comes out the hero. I finished this tome feeling empty, quite honestly. I didn’t feel happy for Barbie or proud of her. I didn’t feel like she’d overcome some great obstacle or earned what she got. No. Just no. The target audience for this book is 2-7 years old. What 5 year old is going to have this book read to them and think, “Well, maybe Barbie and the guys are all working on the project together, and her contribution to the group was layout design.” Or, perhaps, “Barbie really screwed up. It’s a good thing she has friends that could help her fix everything. We probably didn’t see the part of the story where they all give the group presentation and she thanks the guys for their help.”
There seems to be a plethora of adult-fueled hatred and mockery for this book available to us grown-ups, but since the little hands that are holding this book, and drinking in it’s message are hopefully many years from being filled with hatred and sarcasm I wanted to edit it to be something I could read to my girls (and boy too, but truth be told he’s into football and Pokemon right now, so he wouldn’t really be interested). So, with the help of a website that allows you to “fix” pages in this book, I rewrote it. Nearly every page. I’ve added a review of this book to Amazon, and it includes an animated video of the pages I changed. If you like this edit, maybe you’ll head over there and vote up my review. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll hate my edit. I don’t know, but guess what, if you’re over 12, I don’t really care if you like this or not. Because I held my Target Audience on my lap after I finished the changes and read it to her. And she loved it, and she wanted me to read it to her again and again. So I did.
Mattel and Barbie missed an opportunity here to write a great story. But, I’m not missing that opportunity, and here is my full edit of “I Can Be a Computer Engineer”.
(continued from Part 2)
After taking a few minutes to have a minor nervous breakdown over the fact that I would be creating a piece on the dark street I pulled myself together. I still had plenty of time to practice and I knew I could successfully draw Rosie; the goal now was drawing her on the road and practicing with chalk pastels. Luckily, we live on a cul-de-sac in a rural neighborhood. The street that runs in front of my house is similar to the surface at Easton Town Center. During the day we don’t get much traffic, so I was able to park my car on the street and draw on the road behind the car. I went to a local art supply store and picked up a box of black chalk pastel sticks and a box of colored chalk pastels. Again, my inexperience go the better of me!
If you’ve never used a chalk pastel, or you’re not really familiar with them, they are basically a stick of pressed pigment. They are very densely colored, easy to draw with, and easy to blend. Also a little goes a long LONG way. And, when I say they are easy to blend, you should also read this as “easy to smear all over the place even when you aren’t trying to blend!” On my first attempt on our back patio I tried to outline Rosie using the sticks of black pastel. Before I had finished her shoulders the top of her head had started to smear from me moving around. I was just doing a quick sketch so I could learn the properties of the pastels so I hadn’t intended to draw the full figure. She looked AWFUL!!! I then attempted to color her in and she went from bad to worse! The chalk pastels don’t really come in a “flesh” tone. Since they are used by trained artists, they are meant to be blended. You’re supposed to know how to mix 2 (or more) of the colors available to make the new color you desire. Well, I’m not a trained artist, and I’ve been very happy with my Crayola peach colored chalk!! I attempted to color Rosie’s face with the pastels, but all of her black outline smeared, her face looked like a zombie corpse thing, and she was bad bad bad. Her hair did turn out great though, so there was a glimmer of hope. I gave up on this attempt and vowed that I would NOT be coloring Rosie’s face with the chalk pastels. I would just take my Crayolas with me for her face. I wasn’t going to botch the face of my piece just because my experience in color blending is limited to none.
My next hurdle was the road. Now that I knew chalk pastels were out for doing my outline I went old school. I dug around in my kitchen junk drawer and came up with about 2.5 sticks of regular old white school chalk. I knew this would work. It really had to because my homemade chalk would not show up on the road and the chalk pastels would not stay put once laid down. With my black outline and school chalk in hand I got to work on another practice piece. This time on the road. I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of it, and happy with the white school chalk on the dark surface. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and focused on getting to know all about Rosie as the person and not just the girl in the painting (to be continued…)
(continued from Part 1)
When I confirmed with the Chalk-the-Block organizer and myself that, Yes, I was in fact going to attempt Rockwell’s Rosie I became intent on finding out all I could about this ginger beauty. At first glance she just looks like a dirty girl eating her sandwich on her lunch break. On second glance you may notice she has several buttons across her overalls. On third glance you may notice there’s a little something in her pocket. On fourth glance you may notice…well, there’s a lot to notice. And I’ll get into that in a bit.
I really wanted to know all about the details of this painting, and tried all the tricks I could think of to dig up the meaning of the 7 visible buttons that adorn Rosie’s overalls. My super Google skills brought up little as far as specifics, but I did hit the jack-pot when I came across an amazingly beautiful and photo-filled blog, the eff stop (there are also photos of the breathtaking Rosie tattoo recently acquired by the author). Lorri had done a fantastic job capturing the beauty of the painting as she hung in her permanent home, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art located in Bentonville, Arkansas. I commented on her post asking if she had any info on the buttons. She graciously sent me a stunning photo she had taken on her visit of those buttons!
Between the time I made my original comment on the eff stop post and the time Lorri sent me the button photo, I also reached out to the director of education for Rosie’s home museum. The director was extremely helpful, and shared with me a brochure that was passed out during an “Art Talk” Crystal Bridges had held on Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter painting. It not only included the explanation of the buttons in question, but also links to historical sites that helped identify the buttons.
Armed with the knowledge of Rosie’s symbolism, I got to work practicing. My first attempt was a complete F.L.O.P. I attempted to draw from a black and white copy of the original painting, and that just did not work. I needed the defined lines. So, I reverted to my old school days, and made a carbon copy of Rosie. By coloring heavily on the back of the picture with a pencil, placing a clean sheet of paper under the picture, and outlining Rosie with excess pressure I was able to transfer an outline to the clean sheet. Then I traced that pencil outline with a fine tipped pen, and I had my solid black outline that I’m comfortable drawing from.
Here at home I make my own black sidewalk chalk. It works great on the light color of the driveway and looks similar to a pencil. I did a much better practice of Rosie with the outline as my guide, and I was more confident about recreating her at the festival. I colored her in with my usual Crayola sidewalk chalk, she was looking good, and I was feeling good! I should have known it couldn’t be that easy…
The Chalk the Block festival was being held at Easton Town Center. In my naivete, I figured we’d be drawing on the sidewalk. The light, smooth, even sidewalk. Oh friends, how wrong I was. While looking through the gallery of the 2012 event, I quickly noticed that the artists were not drawing on the sidewalk, they were drawing on the road. The dark, coarse, bumpy road!!! *audible gasp* A quick email to the organizer confirmed that, Yes, we would be chalking on the road. It also informed me that we would all be given a large box of professional chalk pastels which they preferred we use, EXCLUSIVELY, to create our drawings. Now, I’d never used a chalk pastel in my life. I’d also never drawn on the road before, save for the quick Scooby I did for my son’s birthday on the school playground, but that was more crumbly black top than road. Welcome back, freak-out mode!! (to be continued…)
Welcome friend! I have a long story to tell you. I hope you’ll follow along. I’ll be breaking it up into a series so it doesn’t get too overwhelming!
A few months ago I posted how I liked to spend my summer months outside doing some sidewalk chalk art while the kids play. We had a great summer, and I got to create some really fun pieces. I also started posting my chalkings to Instagram (#notyourmommaschalk), and then sifting through the #sidewalkchalk posts. I came across a few from a chalk festival in St. Louis. I was unaware that such things existed, and knew I had to attend one. I commented on one of the photos, and received a reply telling me about an upcoming festival about 2 hours from home. Long story short, I submitted an entry and was selected to be one of 32 artists at the festival!!
I’ve only ever done cartoon characters, and my subjects have to have a solid black outline. You can imagine the panic attack I had when I got an email from the organizer letting me know that they preferred the artists didn’t do a licensed character. *audible gasp* They didn’t say we couldn’t do one, just that they preferred we do something more original. So, I stressed for a day or two. Thought about enlisting the help of my tattoo artist to draw me something original that I could copy (in exchange for crocheted goods). Thought about trying tweak an existing character (IE: Tinkerbell as a Buckeye cheerleader). Stressed some more, and continued searching Google Images for inspiration.
As the event date loomed over me, and I had about 2 weeks to decide on a subject, I searched everything that came to mind. Out of genius or frustration, I’m not sure, I searched Wonder Woman. After skimming the usual images that pop up of classic and trampy Wonder Woman I glimpsed a face that I knew very well, and it was not the super hero of my search. This was a face that I have grown up seeing, a face that many recognize, a face to define a generation, an icon of American history and the women of this great country. She was also a face that had a twin. A twin that I have loved deeply since I was a child. This twin is not as famous as the other. She doesn’t have a punchy catchphrase. She isn’t as made-up. She isn’t as clean. What she IS is a hardworking, all American girl who did her job, did it well, and loved her country.
Meet the Rosie Twins:
If you don’t know, both of these images are a depiction of a World War II icon symbolizing the women of the time who had to pick up the factory slack when the men got shipped off to war. She is known as Rosie the Riveter, and has quite an amazing history. The Rosie on the left is the most well-known. She was used on posters introduced by the United States Government in its propaganda campaign to entice women into war work. The Rosie on the right is a painting done by the amazing Norman Rockwell. It was used on the May 29th cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. While I am fond of both Rosies, the Rockwell holds a special place in my heart. I have loved her for as long as I have known her, and that is a long time.
I had been toying with the idea of chalking a Rockwell here a home for a while. I have been a huge Norman Rockwell fan most of my life thanks to my grandparents whose home was filled with Rockwell objet d’art. I had never been brave enough to tackle such an iconic and artistic genius. A Rockwell would be way out of my comfort zone. For some crazy reason I thought a huge public chalk festival would be the perfect venue to try it out!! Momentary insanity??? Probably… (to be continued)