Category: Community

Thursday 13: Artistic Influence or 13 children’s book illustrators I love.

I have been pondering what has influenced me as an artist and where to go from here. I have some favorite fine artists most of which are well known and which everyone has heard of. More importantly I was surrounded by many books illustrated by great illustrators. I spent a lot of my childhood perusing those books, often trying to imitate their drawings and paintings.

As an aside I will say that this is the way most of the best artists learn, by imitating other great artists, absorbing the style elements they love and rejecting the bits that don’t work for them. Very few great artists learned their art by being taught how to draw and paint each element, instead they were inspired by other artists and grew because they loved the work. If you have a child who loves art don’t get them art lessons, give them lots of resources–good books with great illustrators, books of famous artists prints, get them good materials, quality paper and pencils will go a long way towards helping a child develop his artistic talent.

That said the following is a list of the illustrative artists that I found inspiring, which helped me develop (and continue to help me develop) my own style. If you have a moment take a peak at these brilliant artists and their work. There are some great artists here.Read More

WFMW: Leftover Cranberries

I meant to share this a while back, you know when it would be more useful, but for some reason it never happened.

After the holidays I snatch up all the cranberries I can find on sale and stick them in my deep freeze.  No we aren’t fans of homemade cranberry sauce or cranberry bread or muffins or whatever.  We are fans of cranberry juice and with 5 people in the house who don’t believe in juice glasses and several members who can’t have preservatives, corn syrup, or dyes–well the preservative free  plain old cranberry juice with no extra sweeteners is EXPENSIVE, plus you still have to sweeten it with stuff they can use (usually honey).

So, instead of spending $5 for a bottle of unsweetened cranberry juice I buy up cranberries and make my own.  

Before you panic and run the other direction–it is easy.  Really. 

First, fill a large soup pot up about 3/4 of the way with water.  Set it to boil.

Next, rinse two bags of cranberries then  pour them in (you don’t want to use a small pot because it will overflow and that is messy.)

Cover and once it is boiling, turn down the heat and let simmer until all the cranberries pop open. (kind of like popcorn only less dramatic).

Add whatever sweetener you like (my pot holds about 2 gallons and I add about a cup of honey or maple syrup at this point–we have also used Splenda in the past, this works pretty well too.)  You can add more sweetener later to taste.

Once all the berries have popped and the sweetener is combined with the liquid, grab a pitcher, a sieve, and a ladle.   Put the sieve in the pitcher and ladle the cranberries plus juice into the sieve, using the ladle to squish the berries into the sieve.  (If you don’t like seeds you will want to use some cheese cloth in the sieve as well.)

I then pour the contents of the pitcher into glass jars (jelly jars, honey jars, you name it–the kids LOVE to drink the juice right out of these and they work as well as bottled juices when you are on the go.)   These get stored in the back of the fridge until they are gone (it only takes a few days around here.)  They aren’t officially canned but I have found that usually they seal quite tight due to the heat of the juice.

When I can’t get cranberries I buy concentrated grape juice at the health food store (it comes in glass bottles with plastic lids. )  I make it up similarly, without the cooking, and store it the same way.   The bottles make several gallons and the juice is much better than the frozen concentrate from the grocery store, plus I can adapt the sweetener to suit and often add a bit of magnesium powder (from the health food store) to give it a bit of a fizz.

A day in the life 5 + Photo Challenge: Letters

Mike Leonen has issued a challenge: we are to take a photo of letters someplace unusual and post it.

I was at a loss for this–I had hoped to use this to get me painting then realized that it just doesn’t work (I am thinking of doing a creative challenge of sorts–still working out the details. I need something to motivate me to paint when I have no ideas and a challenge of this sort would do the trick.) Plus I am feeling mopey and weird today and no thinky brain.

I had wandering around the house trying to come up with something that needed done that I was up to doing when the kids started fighting over the Gamecube. The rule in our house is no one plays until the work is done and after that a fight will get it turned off. Off it went. Of course that meant I had some activity-less kids on my hands. I needed a project and fast. Rachel immediately ran off to take her Cabbage Patch for a walk and Esther had cuddled up on my lap (she doesn’t handle grumpy mama well.) Issac was the real issue since he would start jumping on the furniture pretty quick if I didn’t think fast.

Out comes Boggle Junior. He is learning to read (he knows more than he thinks–once he gets comfortable and admits he IS reading we will be good.) Boggle Junior as Boggle Junior is boring but those letter dice are pretty awesome. We played for a bit with just rolling the letters and seeing what words we could find then Issac decided he could do it and started doing it himself and pretty soon he was on a roll.

Of course once we came up with the foods idea I had to get my camera. The plate really got him motivated to try and spell foods. He tried eggs but was short a g. Sigh.



After that things just got silly.


Then they got sillier.



And what was Esther doing during this craziness?

Continuing to figure out Silent Night of course.

And building more towers.

Of course seeing all the fun he was having the girls had to join in:


These were pretty tricky to get because the lighting in my living room is awful when we don’t have blankets over the windows to keep out the 7 degree F weather let alone when we do. But they had fun and now they are off sled riding in our frigid backyard and working on their snow fort. (Pictures coming soon.) Oh, and Issac now admits that maybe he CAN read. 🙂

Chore Wars

I don’t usually talk about our family love of RPG gaming (roll playing games)–this being a Christian blog and many Christians being unsure about D&D (which is just one type–usually we just call them RPGs) and whether it is a Christian thing to do or not. I am married to the guy behind the Lord of the Rings turned D&D campaign comic, the RollercoasterTycoon + Bowling = Fun, Chainmail Bikini, not to mention several other geek humor items that have made him a slight celebrity in the geekosphere–so of course we have geek stuff going on in our house. I mean really, his blog is at http://twentysidedtale.com –twenty sided being the dice used in RPG’s and the site itself started as a way to share the D&D campaign he wrote.

RPG’s are not, in themselves evil. Just like anything else, roll playing games can and have in the past been taken to the extreme, just as much as music, books, movies, cards, and anything else that people do occasionally for entertainment. The cool thing about RPGs is that you choose the back story you are working with. There are Christian RPG’s out there and a variety of others–science fiction, fantasy, medieval, all sorts. The only thing that makes an RPG an RPG is that you get to play another character, have some type of stats for the character, and act on behalf of that character–like being in a play except that it is free form. Point is that just like anything else there are good and bad RPG’s and I just found an awesome one.

Chore Wars.

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My husband and I have talked before about trying to develop some kind of D&D game that would let the kids play but learn good things while they were at it. Guess what, I found it, online, for free.

Instead of some fantasy or outer space setting with a big fancy story, the GM (Game Master, sometimes DM–the person in charge of the game) makes a list of chores that need done by the family. There are a variety of incentives that the parent sets and each person has their own login but can only choose which jobs to do–they have to have special permission to make more jobs.

The website allows you to set up chores for each individual room or however you like. You name the chore, choose the incentives (XP is based on time it should take instead of how hard it is, you choose how much each level will go up based on the type of chore it is, you choose how much GP (gold pieces–which can be used as a token system to “buy” whatever you like to use as a “big” incentive), the likelihood of treasure (percentage and what treasures–you can go classic D&D and give a + 4 golden mop or you can give something tangible–we went with the tangible by giving say a 20% chance of a treasure if you beat the monster–the treasure being a hug and kiss, a lollipop, a sticker just to keep it interesting), and the chance of meeting a monster–this is what keeps Rachel coming back she LOVES beating the monsters, plus you get to name them yourself–for instance the monsters in our campaign are all sin or vice related, like Mr. Complaining, Mr. Distraction, or silly–like when you get attacked by the laundry pile when you try to do the laundry. The kids are having fun with these and when they struggle to do a job instead of complaining they say they are being attacked by My. Complaining who is trying to get them to complain.

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Another cool thing is the character sheets. They look like standard character sheets but they let you see what each person has in their inventory (and let the characters remove those they have “used” or spend their money, leaving a note where it went.) Also wonderful is that it gives you a list of the updates in what each person completed so all I have to do is look at the computer to make sure Issac did his homework (he can’t read them all but his sisters help him and he LOVES getting the rewards and fighting monsters.) Best of all is that it has an RSS feed so you can keep an eye on what is getting done in your feed reader (or can if you are like us and have more than one computer going at a time.)

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Yes, you may notice that “Daddy”, who chose to make a character that looks like Gandalf, is also “playing”–he keeps checking in and loves being able to check and see what everyone got done today. Since it is online if you are in the party you can check in from anywhere (which is great for my mom and brother since my brother lives half time at my dad’s.) I am not sure how long it will last in our household but even if it only lasts for today–Rachel has done 6 hours worth of work (granted she moved faster so she could do more sooner, must fix those XP levels), and Esther did 5 hours worth, and Issac did 2 hours worth–and I didn’t have to ask–they love fighting the monsters and are even earning things for each other and helping each other do the work so they can see what they can earn. My house is clean, I didn’t have to load the dishwasher (Esther volunteered and got extra XP for it), the socks are almost all sorted (I threw that in with some extra incentives since NO ONE likes to sort socks around here), the floors are swept, the junk is off the floor, and some of the laundry is done. All without a single real life battle–though there have been plenty of battles with Laundry Piles, Mr. Distraction, Greed, Mr. Complaining, Mr. Whinypants, and others–and I am sure Shamus battled more than once with “the big boss” and “Writers Block”.

The verdict–I recommend it. It is a fun way of keeping an eye on the house work and to get kids to volunteer to help each other–I am amazed at the loving spirit that has pervaded the household–aside from the fights that ensued when the girls tried to play games with their grumpy brother –a half an hour of educational games with siblings gets 30xp, though the book reading that went on was pretty awesome–did I mention that I didn’t even have to ask????