Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving turkeys

Doodle and I had some fun making these cute turkeys together to celebrate the holiday.

I precut turkey bodies from a cereal box we scavenged from the recycling bin, and let her paint them. While they dried, she free-painted on butcher paper while I cut out feathers of different sizes, waddles, and beaks from construction paper.

Later she assembled the layers after I helped apply the glue. A final touch was gluing tail feathers in an arc from the back and adding wiggly eyes.

Last step was cutting a 3 inch strip of extra cardboard, folding it in half, and snipping a slit into both halves.

These will look nice for Grandma's table setting, don't you think? Check out our handiwork:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stupid mom award goes to ME

Scribble has started solid foods, and it's been pretty fun, despite the fact that with two kids I have less time or patience to sit and spoonfeed.  So while occasionally I offer food on a spoon, call me lazy, but most of the time I just put chunks of food on her tray and let her go for it.  She's a much grabbier baby than her sister was, so honestly I don't think I could have done it a different way!  So far she's had the following foods (and mostly from our plates):

- avocado
-sweet potato
-brown rice cereal + breastmilk
-apple slices
-butternut squash
Isn't she cute?

My husband loves to cook, and I love to let him.  Saturday night he created a fabulous veggie dish stewed in a tagine with Moroccan spices, and it was so yummy.  Maybe it was the food coma that rendered my brain completely useless, but for whatever reason I offered my baby (who has battled reflux like a champ) some of the sweet potato from the dish.  Everything was fine until an hour after bedtime when she started howling up a storm (and didn't stop for two hours).  My husband, possibly feeling guilty himself?, stepped in to relieve his crazed wife, and sent me to run the errand I'd been meaning to run ages ago.  She ended up sleeping, but then right when I returned home she was up again, and again screaming and crying.  (I'm still amazed Doodle didn't wake up from all the racket.  Thank goodness for air purifiers and their white noise.)  Finally around midnight I put her in the bouncy seat and brought her to our room to sleep on the floor, where she didn't make a PEEP... until 6am.  Poor kid stayed awake the whole day (aside from a piddly 30 minute midday nap).  So that was my weekend in a nutshell: trying to put the baby to sleep.  I think today we're back to normal, though, as she's currently sacked out on nap #2, after sleeping all night long.  That's my girl.

This weekend we're packing up the family and heading south to celebrate our 5th anniversary.  A car trip should be a good opportunity to work on my book for The Sketchbook Project.  More on this soon... I hear little feet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Soul food

Tonight I found myself having an interesting flashback.  When I was young my younger brother and I spent summers in a tiny south Georgia farm town with our paternal grandmother.  He and I would spend our days shucking corn or shelling peas or exploring the cow pasture for old bones and buttercups, and our nights watching Hee-Haw or some old cop show on a giant cabinet television while outside huge bugs clung to the windows, attracted to the only light for miles, that of the fluorescent overhead in the kitchen.  There was no cable tv, barely a phone, and of course in the 80s, no Internet.  My sibling was my only playmate, so we invented game shows with dolls and chased each other around the yard before the heat got too bad.  The gnats were impossible to escape, temperatures never got lower than the mid 90s, even at night, and my big feather bed was always soaked in the morning when the rooster crowed.  My city-girl desires left me often feeling displaced, lonely, and bored.  I read a lot (including A Wrinkle In Time three times back-to-back one summer), poked around a lot at my dad's old toys, and drew a lot.  A lot.  My grandmother was a hard woman to know, and we had a difficult time relating to each other.  But despite myself, I learned more from those experiences than I ever thought I would.  Who would have thought then that a significant portion of my artistic memory and reference material would have come from that dying farm town?  Certainly not me.  I think if my dad were still alive he'd have a great big chuckle at what he helped create.

Tonight I found myself thinking back to those afternoons with Grandma's soap operas and the scent of freshly shelled black-eyed peas, drawing people in my 5-subject spiral bound notebook.  My grandmother used to receive those giant JC Penney catalogs, as well as a seeming truckload of other magazines and things, but that phone book-sized book of models posing in chinos and horizontal stripes became the perfect reference material for my earliest sketchbooks.  It was from those pages that I learned to handle a pencil.

The Tapas Bar  © Morgan Johnson Norwood
I think about life these days, filled with so many distractions and bombarding images.  Where would I be now if I hadn't been a bored city kid stuck exploring a sweltering farm?

What kind of experiences will shape my daughters' lives?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Small treasures

Drips series. © Morgan Johnson Norwood
I love how playful these small abstracts are, either grouped together or separately.  Perfect holiday gifts!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Starting small

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. -- Pablo Picasso

Doodle turned three this month.  I love three.  Love.  Three is the age when those pudgy little fingers start finally helping in the kitchen instead of making a bigger mess than mommy or daddy.  Three is the age when conversations about what strangers’ footwear is like (“I have birdie shoes on, but he has toes on”), among other such charming observations of life.  And three is the age when art gets to be really super fun.

Drawing of a "skinny bug (stink bug)", 3 years old. 
Yes, it's that time of year again when those evil creatures invade the house....

I have been waiting for this moment since she was born, and now that it’s here I am beside myself with possibilities.  What can she do?  What does she understand?  What can we MAKE??

Now that my classroom has transitioned from 600+ elementary kids a week to 2 kids, I'm always looking for ideas, and I have lots more ideas brewing.  One of my favorite blogs lately is A Little Learning for Two.  Her project and learning ideas are all geared for young hands and sensory issues that are perfect for this age.  Please feel free to share some of your favorite preschool art projects!

Where did we begin?
I get this question from new moms who are ready to start artmaking with their young children-- How can I get my kid interested in art when all he wants to do is chew on things?  What materials are good to start with?

My advice: start as soon as you want!  I chose the 1-year mark as an age when she could sit well, and have good manual dexterity to hold a tool or manipulate toys.  I started with homemade playdough, figuring if it went into her mouth, at least it was edible.  Well, let me tell you, if you try this yourself, consider an alternative recipe to what I did-- whole wheat flour and red food coloring in a no-cook recipe.  The playdough looked like ground beef, and quickly became a not-so-tasty snack for mommy to clean up. For the record, she's a pro at using playdough now, so at least it wasn't a deterrent.

When Doodle was 14 months old she got her first art supplies for Christmas: Crayola jumbo crayons, and their Beginnings line of palm-held markers.  I also got her big floor-sized pads of paper, and brought out an old colorful sheet from my childhood that I dubbed The Magic Carpet.  My one simple rule: art materials stay on the Magic Carpet.  If they leave the Magic Carpet, art time is over.  Here is a video of her trying out her new supplies.

So what about the eating the crayon thing?  Babies love to explore with their mouths, and some babies are mouthier than others.  I'm learning that Scribble enjoys putting lots of things in her mouth, but Doodle was really never that way.  With the caveat that the art supplies you have on hand should be nontoxic, and the expectation that mouthing the crayons is normal and may happen, it is your job to help her transition to drawing for pleasure, as opposed to tasting.  With Doodle, if it happened, I would remove the implement from her mouth and say, "crayons are for coloring," and hand-over-hand draw on the paper with lots of ooohs and aaahs.  Eventually the pleasure of mark making overrides the pleasure of tasting.  I would also color alongside my daughter, modeling for her, and having a super fun time.  

Developmental marks to look out for include big, sweeping side-to-side movements transitioning to circles.

Other materials to try:
Painting with a paintbrush and water on the sidewalk
Fingerpainting, including stamping with foam shapes and/or letters
Sidewalk chalk
Blocks, small empty boxes
Printing various objects (remember potato prints?  Carrots are good for little hands too!)

Where are we now?
This afternoon I focused on getting Scribble to nap longer than 30 minutes, so I didn't even pretend to try Doodle's "quiet" time today (it really is no wonder my youngest's naps are so screwed up, she has to compete with Little Miss Volume all the time).  Instead of insisting Quiet Time in solitude, I made her year by letting her spend time with me in the downstairs play area, where she got to paint with brushes of various types, including rope, sponge, fringe.  When we ran out of drying space, we cleaned up and transitioned from 2D to 3D, rolling and cutting out a billion (okay, not really) stars from playdough.

I love Three because of the elaborate stories that come with the art, especially the art that the casual observer truly has no idea what the masterpiece resembles.  I do my very best not to impose my own interpretation until she tells me all about it... and usually her description makes mine incredibly weak. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grin and bear it

This morning I left Scribble with Daddy and drove off through the rain to visit the dentist, someone I've not had the pleasure of seeing in...*cough* three years.  This is the story of motherhood, though.  Everyone comes before you, and certainly, your teeth.  But after putting off this appointment for so long, and since I knew-- I KNEW-- a cavity had formed because of this, I finally bit the bullet.  So to speak.  Last week we took Doodle to her first pediatric dentist visit (also overdue), and while it went about as well as I expected (read: manageable meltdowns), it was so great to finally get that item checked off the to-do list, and now she's a big fan of the dentist.  Until her next appointment, at least. 

So anyway, as I'm laying in the chair, looking up at the blue sky and cloud scenes on the light panels and feeling the most comfortable I've felt in months (can I ship that dental chair to my house, seriously?), Jackie the hygienist chats me up and suddenly I realize that I can't stop talking.  Poor woman.  This is what happens when you let a mommy out into the adult world again-- she can't shut up.  The cleaning goes well enough, and it's confirmed that my tooth sensitivity is in fact a cavity.  As I stood at the counter holding my little baggie of Sensodyne and dental floss and pondering the full calendar on my phone for a follow-up filling appointment, I learn that a no-show had opened up a slot.  My filling could be done the same day!  Forty minutes and a numb mouth later, I'm paying a copay and heading back home again.

Fortunately, by the time I returned it was time to nurse and a nap.  Suddenly the day feels easy.  I love my 3-year old desperately, but the days she's at preschool are so much easier.

And now a quick update before the tell-tell squawks over the baby monitor light a fire under my butt:

Doodle stuff...
She just had her third birthday, and already she's so different.  More language, more ability to rationalize, more inside jokes.  She's beautiful and funny, and I love her to pieces.  She's getting to the age where we can finally do real art and craft projects together, and I'm so excited.  Yesterday we made these toilet paper tube owls (an idea borrowed from a mommy blogger but I can't find her now, I'm sorry!)  Our paintbrushes went missing, so we used markers instead, but i think these turned out pretty cute.

Scribble stuff...
In a couple of weeks she'll hit 6 months already.  Can't believe how quickly her first year is flying by.  She's a champion nurser, but the call of solid foods is loud and clear.  She's getting to be a good sitter, and is starting to grab at everything on our plates.  The "easy" and uncomplicated packing days are coming to an end.  Bring on the high chair, bibs, spoons, bowls, homemade baby food, finger snacks, and wiping accoutrements... but in a couple of weeks.

Studio stuff....
Still in my Action items is my book for the Sketchbook Project.  I'm also up to my nose in researching how to delve into the art show business.  More on these later.

Today with my remaining hour of the ever-elusive naptime I am working on a series of drawings for my friend and colleague's education journal article on non-verbal gestures used for teaching in the instrumental music classroom.  And, no, I'm sorry to say that those gestures are not included.  Sorry. ;)

Another painting sits on my easel upstairs that I'm currently in love with.  I take these walks with my kids nearly every day through the trails around here, and right now all the leaves are vibrant shades of yellow and orange and red, and I'm so in love.  This canvas is a very long rectangle, and I decided to reflect the amazing height of my view with a vertical orientation.

Studio shot of Into the woods © Morgan Johnson Norwood

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Between squawks and audible baby poops

Sometimes naps are hard to come by.  I have a nearly-3 year old and a 3 month old.  Usually I can count on the baby obliging a three-hour snooze, but when it comes to both at the same time, I usually have to wait for the gods to smile on me.  Just now I heard Thing 2 fill her diaper via the baby monitor, which now begs the question: go up there and risk disturbing the toddler and killing the baby's nap in the process, or wait and risk extra laundry?  Oh, the dilemma.

While I debate with myself, a note about what I'm up to.   Number one, I've got a small book for The Sketchbook Project that has been staring at me for weeks.  My theme is I Remember You, which I chose because...well, I am a fan of nostalgia and storytelling, didn't you know that?  Today I scrawled with charcoal pencil, oil pastel, and swiped a layer of gesso over the whole page. 

I am also in the process of two large paintings on wooden panel (a gift from the dumpster diver that I am-- these panels were formerly part of a shipping crate...I think).  I find myself exploring the horizontal in my work, sectioning off the upper third in a faux landscape.  I also have a fascination with the old Southern farmhouse, which is featured in the panel currently on my easel.  I love the asymmetric line of the roof, the stocky shape of the house.  It pulls me back to the day of my grandmother's funeral, where I visited the dilapidated shack in which her father had been born, the boards gray and rotting with age, coaxed to the ground by an overgrown wisteria vine that was bursting with purple blooms.  That was the day that permanently affected my artmaking.  All at once I plainly visualized the life cycle in a single instant, and that symbol began appearing again and again in my work.

The baby has decided to make my decision for me, isn't that usually the case?  Off I go.

New art 2011

HomeSelf-portrait with haircolorLotusEnclosureDig deeperPasture
EruptionShadow play

New art 2011, a set on Flickr.
New work on Flickr. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Way after my bedtime.

Lately I've been experiencing quite the prolific explosion in my little studio.  Something about bringing another person into this family has flipped a creative switch, and I can't stop myself from painting.  All this creative energy comes in very small spurts of time between naps or playtime or loads of laundry, but for what it's worth, I couldn't be happier.  This is my new normal.

Today I pestered my husband to help take some photographs of some new work.  A preview...
Home, 2011
© Morgan Johnson Norwood
This was one of those rare paintings that took on a life of its own, and I just held on for the ride.  I have been incorporating natural forms into my subject matter for many years, but only recently have begun playing with the lotus pod form.  I adore seed pods and will often refer back to this symbol in my work.

The clock says that it's nearly midnight, and the baby alarm sounds very early.  Good night, friends out there.