Wednesday, 30 November 2011

P.A.D. Day 3

Here is today's painting.  I'm in a different colour mood today, trying to combat the colour I'm seeing the most of outside at the moment, which is ... white.

Untitled acrylic on canvas board 7" x 9"

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

P.A.D. (painting a day) day 2

So here is today's offering. I'm going to have to figure out the logistics some more but it's only day two so some adjustments are to be expected. Early morning is good, but I'll need to figure out a way to remember to get the kids up on time! At least as a homeschooler I can rearrange the day to accommodate a later start, but I have to admit that when I'm painting other things, like food, take a back seat!

Untitled, acrylic on canvas board 7" x 9":

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Painting a Day

For a long time now I've wanted to get back into painting. I say "back" loosely because it was never something that I did on a regular basis, but it was something that I loved to do and always felt "right" when I was doing it. Somebody close to us, whose artistic sensibilities I really admire, had a "photo-a-day" project going on not long ago. So last week I had a brainwave. If I really want to get into painting (which I do) and if I have the means (which I have) then really I need to get over all the excuses and jump in with both feet. I need to give myself a challenge that will require me rising to it, but not so much that it seems insurmountable. So I'm going to do a painting a day for one year. (whew, deep breath there!)

The logistics of this I have yet to figure out. In a house with seven kids, it can be hard to find a clear surface to work on, particularly as we are homeschooling now. It can also be hard to sequester myself in a room for any great length of time, and I don't think I'd be particularly inspired to work in the bathroom ... although it may come to that! I don't know if I'm always going to work at the same time each day although I think a viable solution may be to get it done early in the morning before anyone else is up. I'm not sure if I'll post each painting right away or if I may end up with a backlog and post a dozen paintings at once on my blog, but my commitment is to produce one painting per day for one year.

I'm not going to be doing great masterpieces initially, but I'm not ruling out that that may happen in the future as I grow proficient with the medium and develop my personal style. I've picked up a selection of small canvas boards in three sizes and I plan to fill one a day with colour. That's the extent of my commitment at the moment. I don't know what I'm going to paint initially, I don't know whether it will be abstract or representational, I don't know whether it'll be multicoloured or monochromatic, but it will be colour on a surface that will express something inside me that day.

 My Grandad was an artist and although most of his paintings are still with my Nana in England, my parents and I each have some of his paintings here in our homes. The one we have is hung in my bedroom and I see it daily and I draw inspiration from it, maybe one day I'll do a reproduction of it! I think he'd be proud of what I'm doing. So here is today's painting: untitled - acrylic on canvas board 7" x 9".

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Being Counter-Cultural

You could say that we live a counter-cultural lifestyle. This is confirmed for me regularly when I see the whites of people's eyes as I tell them we have SEVEN kids! To be honest I kind of get a kick out of the shock value, but it can also be somewhat tiring to answer the same question over and over again (you know what they're asking: "Are you done yet?" to which I now respond simply "We'll see") and to respond cheerfully to the constant comments at the grocery store that I'm "busy!" or that I "have my hands full".

As an only child I always vowed that I wouldn't do the same to any child if I had the choice (leave them as an "only" that is), and I am blessed to have been able to live that dream. The truth is that I always wanted a big family and I was quite happy to find out that the guy I wanted to marry also had the same idea. When we started dating we agreed that six was a good number, (we didn't broadcast that though because we had an idea that it wouldn't go over very well with a lot of people) but we've become less concerned about the numbers as we've grown.

I never started out to make any kind of statement by having a large family, it was just something I'd always wanted. However it appears now that I am unintentionally making a statement. Now that I think about it I think it's a good one. It's a statement that we are open to life as it is offered to us as a blessing, and a statement that we are willing to put in the work now to invest in our family for the long term. I read a book by Kimberly Hahn where she pointed out that the one gift that is only able to be given to children by their parents is a sibling. No one else on earth can give them the gift of a brother or sister and it's a gift that will benefit them throughout the many stages of life (although they don't always appreciate it when a younger sibling is taking their stuff!).

A friend of mine has recently been on the hunt for a daycare provider. She is a shift worker and as such has changing daycare needs from week to week. She needs someone who can do drop-offs and pick-ups at her son's school in the mornings. And because her daughter can't eat dairy or soy products she needs a place that can allow nuts in the diet. Admittedly not the easiest situation to accommodate. But in her search for suitable daycare she has also now come across another hurdle. Her children are too young! Being almost four and almost two she has actually been told by some daycare providers that they could not take her children because "it would be unfair to the older children already in the daycare to have young children around". This was implied by two daycare providers and openly stated by two more!

Have we gotten so selfish as a society that we don't want to teach kids how to share anymore, or how to relate to people of different ages. I know lots of people whose kids enjoy playing with really little kids because for one thing, they are so cute :) and for another it's fun to play with people who have no expectations of you other than that you might throw a ball for them to catch (or chase, as the case may be). It boggles my mind that it would be considered "unfair" to make children of different ages associate with each other and learn to get along. I wonder if people realize that this is actually a life skill that can serve them well when they get out into the world and need to interact with people from much wider demographics than simply an age difference.

It seems that people are increasingly surprised by any desire to have more than two children, and I think this is largely fueled by the current common fear that we are on an overpopulated planet. However if you hear the demographers in the documentary Demographic Winter you realize that the population explosion of the twentieth century occurred, "not because we started breeding like rabbits, but because we stopped dying like flies", which makes a lot of sense, and will inevitably lead to a drop again as the rates of birth and death stabilize. And then when you look at the countries in Europe and Asia that are facing a birth dearth, you start to see the long term ramifications of this mentality that says we shouldn't be having many children. There's been a lot of hype lately about "baby 7 billion" recently being born, and most of it has been laced with fearmongering. Wherever baby 7 billion is I'd like to send them a message that they are a welcome, unique, distinct individual, whose value is as high as anyone else's who was already here before them. They are not a drain on resources, in fact they may be the one who comes up with the next major "green" technology or medical breakthrough.

In fact as an only child, I'm very glad that we didn't stop at the conventional two kids. If we had done that I would have a horribly warped view of what siblinghood is about because our two oldest children are like oil and water, they just don't mix very well at all! It wasn't until we had three or four kids that I really began to see just how good it was for the kids to have each other around. Just your basic decisions that require compromise and negotiation exercise a mental muscle that you don't necessarily develop if you don't have to. And of course, just having someone to play with, to share your family experience, to share your memories of childhood as you grow older. I look at my children and know at we've given them priceless gifts in each other and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Tea and Spices

There are some smells that hold memories for us. In fact I've heard that the olfactory sense is the most powerful for being connected to memories. My Nana's sideboard has one of the strongest, most memorable scents for me. This particular piece of furniture sits in my Nana's back living room, the room that my Grandad lived in when he became bedridden in his final year or so, so that he could still be involved in the day to day goings on in the household. As a child I used to visit my Nana and Grandad every couple of years with my Mum or both my Mum and Dad if we could all get away on a trip "home" together. And as a child I didn't realize which parts of those trips would stay with me the most. Sometimes its the simplest little things that have the most lasting effects.

On the top of the sideboard there were usually crystal glasses on a doily on a tray and from my childhood perspective they were just pretty because of the way the glass was cut and they sparkled! There was usually a bottle or two beside the glasses with something not too interesting inside it, stuff that didn't smell very good to my young nose. But inside the cupboards of the sideboard - the smell was something else! That was where my nana kept tea and sugar, and spices as well. I used to have a little fold up chair that I sat on in this room and I loved to sit by the sideboard and crack the door open and just smell the combination of things inside. I don't know what kind of wood the sideboard was made of, but the combination of the smell of the wood with decades of tea and spice storage built up inside is one of those things that I remember and treasure.

Even when I go back there as an adult, one of the first things I do when I go to my Nana's house is go into the back living room and crack open the doors of the sideboard to inhale deeply that wonderful scent of tea and sugar and spices. I don't know how old the sideboard is. I know it wasn't new when my Nana got it. I think, if I remember rightly, that it belonged to a family friend, old Mrs Keogh, (pronounced "Keef" - there's no accounting for that Irish spelling!) who lived down the lane from some of my Nana's family back in Ireland. Through one means or another it came to my Nana and is still with her today. I don't really like to think about it too much, and I don't know much about trans-Atlantic shipping but someday I hope that I will be able to bring that sideboard here. Hopefully my own kids will be able to smell the smells in that sideboard, and fall in love with it too. And someday maybe they'll be bringing their own children to visit and they too will sneak into a room at nana's house to crack open the doors of the sideboard and inhale the scents of tea and sugar and spices and create warm memories of their own.