19 November 2014

Artist Highlight: Julia Blake

Growing up in a household of artists, I'm always intrigued by other artists.  They are, more often than not, unique and interesting.  Ryan always introduces me as an artist, but I've never really felt that that is my title.  My medium of fabric isn't traditional.  But my need to create is very much driven as any artist is to make something that didn't exist before.  When I asked artist Julia Blake to answer some questions, I loved reading her responses.  It reignited a passion to create more in my own soul.  For those of you who say you can't follow a dream for some reason or another, read on. 

KD: When did you know painting was "your thing?"

JB: I had loved art and taken classes as a teenager, but abandoned it for more 'practical' studies. Many years later, after my 6th child was born I was really sad to be done having babies. REALLY sad. When he went to preschool I knew I had to do something BIG. That's when I started painting again. My first few paintings were pretty bad, but then I had the break-through painting. It was a huge painting and a gift for a friend. I feel like God gave me the gift to paint because of the sacrifice I was making. I could not stop working on it. I didn't want to eat or sleep. I just wanted to paint. That was the defining point. I painted 100 paintings the first year and sold 100 the next year. I am so happy to have found something that fills me - I'm pretty obsessed about it and I have to remember that my kids still need me. I have to finish that job I started.


KD: Speaking of 6 kids, when do you find time to paint?

JB: Right now 4 of my 6 kids are still at home.  I try to paint every minute that they are in school. I usually take a break when they get home and through the dinner hour, but not always. When my littles are in bed I try to paint again, but sometimes I'm too exhausted. Thankfully, I paint very quickly. My paintings actually stink if I slow down and think about them too much. 


KD: Do your children show interest in artwork, and if so, how do you foster that?

JB: My 16 year old daughter is a very good artist. She was chosen for the Intensive Drawing and Painting class after her freshman year. I sometimes pass along portrait commissions to her because she is better at them than I am. This summer we took a 3-day portrait workshop together at Southern Virginia University with one of my friends, Rose Datoc Dall. It was a very fun getaway for us. I hope that she will pursue art in college. My 6 and 8 year old sons paint with me sometimes and seem to really like it. The whole family sees my painting process because I have set up my easel in the kitchen. I find I'm most productive that way. I can help with homework or work on other things when I step away from a painting.


KD: What is the fulfillment or satisfaction you receive from painting, and is there anything else that comes close to replicating that feeling? (i.e. other types of creativity) 

JB: This gift has really filled the void I had when I was done having babies. I always loved being pregnant, anticipating a new baby and loved the first couple years of mothering where I felt like I could be the perfect mother. The older my kids get the less I can be the perfect mother to them. Painting is about anticipating and nurturing - it's about saying something through process, symbol and color. The satisfaction for me is multifaceted. Sometime I fall into bed with the current work in progress on my night stand so I can look at it. I can sit and stare at something quantifiable that I have done. SO much of mothering gets undone or has to be redone. Laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping don't stay done, but a painting stays done (unless I decide to work on it some more). There is something so completely validating about having something physical, tangible and meaningful to show for my hours and efforts. And to have people buy my work just magnifies that validation. When people say they like my work that makes me very happy, but when they part with their money and hang it in their home I am deeply satisfied.


KD: So, what's on the horizon for you?
JB: I am so excited to be buying an old church in Western, MA with artist J. Kirk Richards. We will renovate it and use it as an art studio for ourselves and we plan to host visiting artists for residencies and workshops. You can read about it here: www.artistcommon.com and any purchases you make from myself our Kirk will have make this project happen. We'd love your help. 


KD: What advice would you offer to those who want to create but feel inhibited for one reason or another?
JB: That is a great question. I want to just say DO IT. Fear of failure needs to just go away! That is the lamest excuse. If you try but you don't do something well, take a class or study via books and videos. We live in an amazing time where information is available. Practice. Keep a sketchbook or notebook with you all the time to write down ideas.  If time is the issue then figure out what you want most and put that at the top of your list. We all have the same amount of time in a day - figure out what you are willing to sacrifice to do something you love. For example, I used to love shopping for clothes but I rarely choose that over painting. I have cut back on running and cooking  (both things that I really like). I hardly volunteer any more. I feel like I've done my time with the PTO already. My oldest is 20 and I have put in plenty of hours running carnivals and auctions etc. I still go read in the class room and chaperone field trips, but I have stepped down to let younger moms run the organizations. I don't feel guilty about that. I am making deliberate choices. I have two demanding jobs at church and I try to do those on Sundays only. It is very hard to find the right work/life balance and I don't claim to have found it. Being an artist is a full-time job for me, but it is the second most important job I have. Being a wife and mother is the most important thing to me and I hope that my epitaph will reflect that.

Admit it, you're ready to shut down the computer and go create!  I love it!  And aren't Julia's paintings incredible?  I'd like one of each in all the colors.  Maybe even purple. ;)  Original artwork makes me happy.

Shall we do a giveaway to celebrate creativity?  Julia is offering $100 towards her painting to one of my readers. To enter, do these 2 things:

+ Sign up for her email list on her website www.juliablakeart.com
+ Comment on your favorite IG painting on @juliablakeart
+ Open Until 11/30

Or, you can take 15% off using code NoBigDill15 on anything painting!   

17 November 2014

Bigger Baby Bunnies and Life at Warp Speed

Back in February I asked Pearl what she wanted for her birthday.  She gave me a choice.  So nice of her.  Either a bow and arrow or she wanted to breed bunnies.  My vote was bow and arrow.  It seemed less involved, until there was an incident involving a homemade bow and arrow and a near eye-loss experience.
If you follow me on instagram, you'll know this is Prince, the bunny with one good eye who Pearl chose as the father because she was afraid nobody else would ever take him home.  He has won our hearts. Penny, the doe, we thought was uncooperative.  We tried time after time to get them to breed and assumed it was a failure, and breeding bunnies wasn't nearly as easy as all the cliché sayings and songs suggest.  We began to look for a new doe for our sweet Prince.
Until one day we noticed Penny had started pulling fur to make a nest, a sign that they are pregnant.  We have had bunnies in the past, however, who have done this and they all turned out to be "false pregnancies".  Pearl and I counted back the days when we tried to breed the two and figured if she was indeed pregnant, she was due very soon.  I palpated her, but as I forgot to go to school to become a veterinarian, I wasn't positive she was pregnant, but very suspicious that she might be.  We put a nesting box and lots of hay in her cage, just in case.
The next morning, I felt like it was Christmas as a child.  I ran outside and saw what appeared to be an exploded fur ball in Penny's quarters, particularly concentrated in one corner.  I reached my hand in the softest mound you could imagine and felt a warm, squirmy little body.  I wanted Pearl to be there to share in this moment,
so I ran to tell the kids and Ryan that Penny had her baby(ies?) in the night.  Ryan looked at me with skepticism and raised brows that almost touched the ceiling.  I smiled back, perhaps a bit smugly, and said, "It's true."  The stampede made it's way to the backyard where I reached inside once again and began counting the tiny bunny bodies.  One *gasp!*, two *gasp!*, three *GASP!*
Many first time mothers let their litters die because they're not sure what to do, but our little Penny did a fabulous job.  Mother rabbits don't stay by their babies, like many other animals normally do.  They nurse them a couple times a day and leave them on their own to avoid drawing attention from any predators.  The babies stay close to one another for warmth and open their eyes after about 7-10 days.  They can have anywhere from 1-8 babies in a litter.
A rare moment to be able to catch the babies nursing, this one hanging upside down like a bat to get that sweet milk.
Penny did such a great job of nursing these babies and they soon turned from small, sleepy, squirming, squeaking runts, to plump, playful, puffy buns.
Pearl and I brought them in this morning to take photos and Ryan was shocked (once again) that these were the babies.  "They're so big!"  Just a few short weeks and they are ready for new homes.
How did that happen so fast?  So it is with our own litters. With young children, grand perspective is so elusive.  We know, in the back of our heads somewhere, that they will grow up and leave home, but in the midst of the potty training, laundry folding, homework completion, ballet lessons, basketball games, and everything else that seems to fill the minutes of each day, that whispering, transparent perspective sometimes blends so well, going unnoticed until we happen to look through old photos of our child who was just learning how to walk, yet somehow wants a phone for Christmas and is already talking of driving.
It happens alarmingly fast.  It's almost as if we should start each day resetting our perspective, taking a moment to remember the day they were born, or even when we were awaiting that day with such anticipation.  I imagine it would sprinkle a sense of calm and contentment over our minds as we feel frustrated or overwhelmed.  A new resolve, perhaps, to not be blindsided by the minutiae, to build the memories now, despite the everyday.
Meanwhile, anyone want a bunny? ;)




03 November 2014

Knudsen Family Reunion 2014

When you think of family reunions, do you get shivers of dread down your spine?  Do you imagine cheeks being pinched by old aunts and eating pork and beans for every meal?
You haven't been to our family reunion, then.  I think my parents should be master event organizers.  They've always been good at creating itineraries and researching the best of the best places to eat and locals to experience.  Their specialty being New York, of course.  I've lost count how many times they've been.
It's been several years since we were all together, ironically, it was in North Carolina both times.
We rented a giant 3 story house on a lake in North Carolina where we all fit just perfectly: 2 grandparents, 6 children, 6 in-laws, and 19 grandchildren!  My parents flew out a bit early, the two families out west flew in together and the rest of us made the drive.
And if you know my family, you know we like a good theme.  And theme color.
We were also given an itinerary in advance with assignments as well as scheduled meals each family was in charge of.  (Neither of the two fathers above are his.  I love it so much.)
My mom faithfully wore her "Cross Yourself" hat throughout the entire reunion.
They chose "Cross Yourself" which is a scripture reference found in The Book of Mormon, Alma 39:9 which says, "Now my son[s and daughters], I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things."
Even the older grandchildren had assignments of providing activities for the younger grandchildren and coming up with a grandchildren dance.

Uncle Craig was in charge of the water sports.  And Uncle Craig is the epitome of adventure and fun, despite Eli's laissez-faire attitude below.

And if you dared to fall asleep in the common area, you were subject to me accessorizing your slumber.  Fair game.
One of the sweetest moments was when the grandchildren got up to sing "Sandman", a song that was sung to my mother by hers, and her mother by hers, and back another couple of generations.  There is no music actually written down, but one of those sweet lullabies that has simply drifted from loving lips to little ears down through generations of mothers singing to their children.


Another highlight was the lip sync night.  I have never laughed so hard, watching my parents sing Pink's duet to each other with such gusto.
There were costumes and dances and props.  My kids now believe that Aunt Ashley owns "Shake it Off".  Sorry Taylor. Her pink lashes put it over the top.
I was in charge of the family photo.  Which reaffirms the inkling that I never want to be a professional family photographer.  Whew! This is super Uncle Jacob while I test my settings.
It's really quite amazing that we got a decent one with all those little people.
Ages 13 years - 4 months. I'd even venture to say it's a miracle. Bonus points if you can find Drummer below. ;)
Little Ivy.
Getting the red shoe line-up was almost as much work as the family photo, but it really needed to be documented.
Us. :)
We were also able to hold Azure's baptism at the lake, surrounded by the people who love her most.
She wore the dress that I cut the stain out of.  It's in this post, as is Clover's outfit.
She was a bit nervous, but I loved this contemplative look.  She's a smart one, that Azure.  She doesn't miss a thing, and she's got fire in her spirit.  A fire that will take her wherever her heart desires.
And this photo of Ryan and Azure melts me to a puddle.  A happy, content, proud puddle of a mother and wife.

I feel like it all went by with a whoosh of the lake wind.  Not enough time to chat with everyone for the proper amount of time,
not enough time to share matters of the heart, both good and bad,
but we laughed, loved, and kissed on each other's children.
We will just have to get together to do it more.

Outtakes are always the best.  Haha!