Paul Pletka

Paul Pletka painting in his home studio in Santa Fe, NM

It’s been ages since I wrote a proper blog post (about 3 months) and even longer since I did a proper art post. I’ve been wanting to talk about the Our Lord, The One Who Is Flayed painting for ages, ever since I first saw it a year or so ago in the Phoenix Art Museum. I had never heard of the artist until I saw the three-paneled work below. Paul Pletka was born in 1946 in San Diego, California and has made his name painting Native Americans, especially those from the American Southwest.  His style is neo-surrealistic and has been described as “both realistic and deeply spiritual, being highly sensitive to the inner thoughts of Native Americans.” Paul has a local connection to Phoenix by going to nearby AZ State University. “Interestingly enough, Pletka has never taken a painting course. His focus in college was printmaking. Through an extensive process of experimentation, his heroic-sized visions of Indian mysticism are distinguished by exacting details that can only be achieved when technique is coupled with dedicated research.” He currently lives in New Mexico. 

I am always curious when someone outside of one cultural group decides to concentrate on something different (like Children’s author/illustrator Ezra Jack Keats being a white Jewish guy creating amazing books about African American and Hispanic children in the 1960-80s) , as I want to know why they have chosen to do this and is his work accepted by the group he is trying to interpret. The artist himself said this about his decision to paint predominantly Native Americans: “When I was a youngster and first became enchanted with Indian costume, lore and artifacts, I would sometimes pretend I was an Indian. I soon realized that was not intellectually reasonable. I am not an Indian. I am simply an interpreter.” He is considered one of the best painters on the subject and his work has been in exhibitions since 1964.

The painting below, While the Ravens Laughed, is one of his earlier works. It depicts the human form of the Hopi Crow Bride/Mother Kachina, aka Angwushahai-i. “Dolls and dancers representing the Crow Mother generally wear masks with ears of huge crow wings.” She is connected to the renewal/growth of corn crops in the spring. 

Paul Pletka - While the Ravens Laughed, 1976

While the Ravens Laughed, 1976

The piece below (here is the larger version) is probably one of my favorite ones from Phx Art Museum. It just draws your eye with the bright reds, oranges, blues and greens and makes you want to study it to find out what all the little details mean. The painting depicts a re-enactment of the Passion of Christ, which is done by Mexicans during Lent (the liturgical season leading up to Easter in the Catholic and Protestant calendars). The Passion of Jesus refers to the suffering enduring by Jesus starting at his entrance to Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the trial in front of Pilate and finishing with his crucifixion The difference here between traditional representations is the mixing of Catholic and pre-Hispanic elements, i.e.the inclusion of the Olmec/Toltec/Aztec god of fertility, seeds, metalsmith/goldworkers, maize and spring. Xipe Totec was typically depicted wearing the flayed skin of his enemy’s and you can see that on the face of Christ on the cross and possibly the rest of the skin showing on his body. The flayed skin was supposed to renew or grow crops, which goes in well with the idea that Christ on the cross is there to give us salvation/renewal. The title refers to both the flayed body of Jesus and the flayed skin of Xipe Totec’s mask is scene on the far right panel underneath the banner of Jesus/John the Baptist. 

Xipe Totec

Xipe Totec – The Flayed God

The altar in the back of the painting is taken directly from the artist’s studio, as seen in the first picture above. Complementary colors play an important part in moving your eyes around the picture. The greens complement the red (ex.the dark green of the cross vs the bright red of the drapes), as well as the blues and oranges (ex. the turquoise of the ladder with the orange of the woman’s shawl in the center of the painting). The red symbolizes the blood of martyrs, in this case the ultimate martyr – Jesus. It is also specifically used on Palm Sunday in anticipation of the death of Jesus. As the author of the post on Yo So Art has commented on her blog post, in the center of the painting is one of the most interesting juxtaposition of images. The priest standing on the ladder has purple vestments which “depict missionaries preaching to the Native [Mexicans]  from a book in front of a giant cross, on top of a scene of some conquistadors on horseback stabbing [these same Aztecs].” 

Paul Pletka - Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed - 2004

Nuestro Senor el Desollado (Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed), 2004

Resources: 

Bratcher, Deborah. CRI, 2013: http://www.crivoice.org/symbols/colorsmeaning.html   

askArt, 2000-2017. http://www.askart.com/artist_bio/Paul_Pletka/82216/Paul_Pletka.aspx

The Eddie Basha Collection, Paul Pletka, taken from Art Fortune, 2016: http://eddiebashacollection.com/collection/paul-pletka 

Yo Soy Art, Dec 2012.Paul Pletka, Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed, 2004: http://yosoyart.blogspot.com/2012/12/blog-post.html 

What to do with $700 Million?

Hi everyone!

I hope you had a good holiday season and a Happy New Year! My family’s Christmas/New Years breaks were quiet and low-key. In keeping with my promise to write more, I decided to do so today. I found this pic this afternoon on my Goodreads feed that made me laugh and think of this blog:

Hermione is the Smartest

Hermione

I have had my first Art Explorers program and got a respectable six kids. It doesn’t seem like a lot but given I couldn’t really advertise for the program due to a flyer issue, it is pretty spectacular. I will do my best to advertise the heck out of the program and work on extending the length. I’m so used to not have any time to do the program (as I did with Kids Cafe), that the first one was rather short. So I’ve added a bit to the next two to make them longer. This month’s program was on The Color Wheel and Pop Art”, and February’s will be on Dale Chihuly. The activity for that program will take longer so I’m not too worried about it. I’m so excited to do the Anglo-Saxon program in March! I’ve worked really hard and managed to squish 600 years of history into 18 slides. I just have to sort out my activity and everything will be awesome.

My first Page Turners (tween book club) meeting will be on Thurs Jan 21st. My co-worker and I asked the kids to have read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I have read it before, but of course had forgotten that I had, so this time around I listened to the audiobook version narrated by English actor Michael York (which was fantastic). We’re hoping we get more than one kid this time around, though the past one kid per program have been very enthusiastic about the books, and have some cool activities planned. We’re going to create our own shields and hopefully that’ll segway into talking about the author, why and how he created the book and discussion questions. We plan on having Turkish delight and hot cocoa, snacks featured in the book. I’m rather excited about it!  I’ll post more about it in a couple weeks after it’s occurred. February we will be discussing Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiographical verse novel Brown Girl Dreaming (which I totally loved), and we’re hoping to help the kids create a timeline of the last 10 years of their own life, write their own haikus, and create a self-portrait using their hands and filling in activities that make up their lives.

I had my first DiscoveryTime (Preschool Storytime plus STEM) of the year last Fri and it went pretty well considering it’s the first storytime I’ve done since before Thanksgiving. I ended up having a co-worker watch it, as she is preparing for her first one in two weeks when I’m on vacation to lovely Las Vegas to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary! I did it on Robots, and thought it was a bit short, the kids has a lot of fun creating their own robots out of foam shapes, aluminum foil, pipe cleaners and toilet paper rolls (see my example from last year below). I’m teaching 2 ASL signs per program, as Sign Language is the next big thing in our library’s storytimes. They are using them more heavily in Baby & Toddlertimes where the kids may not be able to speak, but since mine is for ages 2-5, I kind of figured that they would have the hang of that by now. So I’m teaching the word “Silly” (because I like to use the Raffi song Shake Your Sillies Out as my intro music) and whatever the theme is for the day. I’m also teaching my son the signs at home, so we’ve been having fun with that calling each other “Silly Robot”. This week’s topic is on Clouds and the final one of the month will be on Rainbows.

My Robot example

In other news, the Powerball Lottery here in Arizona is up to $1.4 Billion, which is just insane! So naturally everyone is trying to win it. My husband’s job did a pool at $20 a piece to get tickets, plus he went out and got another one for us. So if we were to win, that would be about $700 million a piece after taxes (I think). What would you do with that kind of money? Would you keep it or give it away? I don’t think I would quit my job b/c I know I would get bored otherwise, plus I love it. I could do a lot of things with that kind of money, including the following:

  • Pay off my student loan and though my hubby would probably hate me for saying this, maybe take some in-person classes at a good university for fun/to get a PhD because I could
  • Pay off my husband’s truck
  • My hubby would like a brand new Raptor truck, one of those stupidly expensive trucks with all the bells & whistles (I’ve seen a few around here because of the rich folks that live in Scottsdale)
  • Buy us a house and fix it up – or more precisely, move to the NW coast somewhere and buy a house
  • Put our son into a really good school and put aside a trust fund for going to university
  • Donate a sizable portion to children’s literacy and/or the library
  • My hubby would like to buy a house for his parents in England and have all of us go visit them
  • I would love to be able to travel more, all over the world; to Northern Europe again, or to Greece, Istanbul, or Japan
  • My hubby thinks I should get a new car, but I would probably just fix up his truck and make it really nice
  • Buy some nice art/vintage books

Kids Cafe Lecture: Ancient Near Eastern History, Pt 1

This was one of my favorite that I have done because I have been in love with Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) history and art since I was an undergraduate in college and took a class on it. I’m currently taking a free online class about it. It is always fun to share something new with the kids and this is a great example. I did this over the summer because I knew the audience would be bigger. Because ANE History covers such a huge time period, about 3000 years, I decided to break it into two sections and talk about five civilizations in total (there were many more but hard to squeeze all that into a 20 minute lecture). The first one was on Sumerians and Babylonians. I had originally planned to get the kids to build Lego ziggurats but no one was really interested, so I let them create what they wanted and I built my own version of a ziggurat.

KC Ancient Near Eastern Art History, Pt 1 – June 12

Mesopotamia Map

  • Mesopotamia
    • From the Greek, meaning “two rivers”, which referred to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; also called the Fertile Crescent
    • Contains modern day Iraq and parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey
    • They may have invented the wheel and later used it to invent the chariot and to make pottery, domesticate animals, irrigation etc
    • Using their advanced math, the Mesopotamian astronomers were able to follow the movements of the stars, planets, and the Moon. By studying the phases of the Moon, the Mesopotamians created the first calendar. It had 12 lunar months and was the predecessor for both the Jewish and Greek calendars.
    • The Mesopotamians may have invented the simple machine called the Archimedes Screw. This would have helped to raise water to the heights needed for the plants in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
  • Sumerians (c. 5000 – 1750 BCE)
    • 1st civilization c. 3300 BCE – “an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry and government have been reached” – dictionary.com
    • They had the 1st complex cities, they had central government and organized religion, they developed advanced technologies such as the wheel, sail, and plow; they had a surplus of food and traded with other empires
    • Sumerian Map
  • Ziggurats
    • They built temples, to their 3,000 gods and goddesses, called ziggurats
    • They shaped it like a mountain, almost like a step-pyramid, because they believe their gods lived at the top of mountains
    • The largest ziggurat was in the city of Ur, c. 2100 BCE
    • Today Ur-Nammu Ziggurat
    • Artist Rendering of what it might have looked like - Ur-Nammu Ziggurat in Sumeria
  • Written Language
    • Oldest written language in cuneiform on clay tablets or cylinders– 3600 BCE
      • Cuneiform translates into “wedge-shaped”; they were pictures or pictograms meant to represent the real thing
      • Writing was developed in Egypt, the Indus Valley, China, and Mesoamerica afterwards
        • 2150-1400 BCE – Sumerian Epic poem Gilgamesh written on clay tablets
        • Cuneiform on clay tablet
        • Hero_lion_Dur-Sharrukin_Louvre_AO19862
  • Sumerian Art
    • Sumerian Votive Art – small sculptures used in religious ceremonies, found in the Sumerian city of Eshunna
    • Votive Statuettes from the Square Temple, Eshunna c. 2700-2600 BCE
    • statuettes-of-two-worshipers
  • The Standard of Ur
    • Possibly decorations for a music box – c. 2600 BCE
    • Peace Side
    • The Stardard of Ur in Peace
    • War Side
    • The Standard of Ur - War side
    • Made out of wood, lapis lazuli, red limestone and shell
  • Bull-Headed Lyre
    • Found at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, c. 2600 BCE
    • Music was very important to Sumerians, and this one was buried with its musician
    • This one features a bearded bull, created with lapis lazuli and gold leaf and inlaid Gilgamesh-like figures
    • Bull-Headed Lyre
    • Close-up Bull-headed lyre
  • Old/1st Babylonian (1795 – 1595 BCE)
    • Things Babylonians are most famous for:
      • They made several advances in medicine. They used logic and recorded medical history to be able to diagnose and treat illnesses with various creams and pills.
      • They had one of the earliest written down code of law – Hammurabi, King of Babylon, c 1754 BCE
      • Basalt Stele with Hammurabi Code c. 1780 BCE
      • Up Close Stele
  • Ne0-Babylonian (612 – 529 BCE)
    • King Nebuchadnezzar II, the one mentioned in the Bible, destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the people of Judah to Babylon
    • The city of Babylon, according to the historian Herodotus, “Its outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high.”
    • Plan of the City of Babylon
  • Ishtar Gate

Kids Cafe Art Lecture: Piet Mondrian

I’ve been getting ready for my next Tween Book Club. The first one was last Thursday and we only had one kid and one parent show up, though it was still a pretty good discussion of the book. We will have to work on Ice Breakers for next time.  Apparently part of this is due to the fact that no one could figure out where it was, though it was marked on the info sheet, and also because the homeschool writer’s group I distributed a bunch of flyers to apparently already is involved with two other book clubs. Ah well. I am trying my best this time to get as many of age kids a flyer as possible. I have managed to get a couple of kids to check out a book so far. I’ve also been working on finishing off the DiscoveryTimes (Preschool Storytime plus STEM) till the end of the month, when I will hopefully get a bit of a break. Kids Cafe, mostly just admin stuff, has been stressing me out, but I’m feeling better about it now as I’ve finally got things sorted.

This lecture on Dutch artist Piet Mondrian was another example of a modern artist who I have, of course, heard about but never really studied at any length. While I didn’t love the stuff he was most famous for (i.e. the grid-patterned paintings), I did gain a new appreciation for him and especially liked the concept behind one of his most famous paintings, Broadway Boogie Woogie. I had originally picked Mondrian because of the easy accompanying activity.Yes, you can do a super simple activity with duct tape, but the kids and I ended up doing an example using crayons/colored pencils and large pre-cut squares. Mine used primary colors only, but the kids got more creative with color use.

Piet Mondrian

Mondrian - View from the Dunes and Piers, Domburg 1908

View from the Dunes with Beach and Piers, 1909 [this was my favorite piece that I found for this lecture]

  • Biography of the Artist
    • Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan was born in the Netherlands in 1872
      • He changed his name to Piet Mondrian between 1905-1909
    • Mondrian was exposed to art at a very young age because his father was an art instructor and his uncle was an artist.
    • He started out as an elementary school teacher and painted in his spare time.
    • He started out as a landscape painter and painted the fields, farms and canals around Amsterdam.
  • Influences: Impressionism
    • Van Gogh’s Almond Tree, 1890
    • Van Gogh - Almond Tree, 1890
    • Mondrian – Avond (Evening): The Red Tree, 1908
    • Mondrian - Avond- Red Tree, 1908
  • Influences: Pointillism
    • Georges Seurat The Circus Parade, 1889
    • Seurat - La Parade du Cirque, 1889
    • Mondrian’s Sun, Church in Zeeland, 1910 [my second favorite piece of his]
    • Piet Mondrian - Sun, Church in Zeeland, Zoutelande Church Facade, 1910 at Tate Modern Art Gallery London England

      Piet Mondrian – Sun, Church in Zeeland, Zoutelande Church Facade, 1910 at Tate Modern Art Gallery London England

  • Paris – 1911
    • Mondrian moved to Paris in 1911. There he was influenced by the Cubist style of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and his work started including more geometric shapes and were less biomorphic (drawn from nature and more curvy)
      • Picasso’s Ma Jolie (My Pretty Girl), 1911-12
      • Picasso - Ma Jolie (My Pretty Girl), 1911-12
  • Abstraction Starts – 1912
    •  Mondrian – Grey Tree, 1912
    • Mondrian - Grey Tree, 1912
    • Mondrian – Still Life with Ginger Pot, 1912
    • Mondrian - Still Life with Ginger Pot, 1912
  • The Netherlands – 1914-18
    • Mondrian moved back to the Netherlands from 1914-18, during WWI, and after meeting another Dutch artist who used only primary colors, he began to develop his own painting style.
      • In 1915, he created a new art movement called “De Stijl” or “The Style”, aka “Neo-Plasticism”
        • Colors were applied in patches and the horizontal and vertical lines were absolutely straight (there were no diagonal lines). These paintings were not readily accepted by the public.
  • Composition with Color Planes, 1917
  • Mondrian - Composition with Color Planes, 1917
    • Here, Mondrian has moved away from the dark Cubist colors of yellows, grays, and browns, opting instead for muted reds, yellows and blues – a clear precursor to his later palette that focused on primary colors.
  • Paris – 1919-38
    • After the war, he moved back to Paris and began to produce the grid-based abstract paintings with primary colors for which he is best known.
      • Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, and Gray 1921
      • Mondrian - Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow and Gray, 1921,
  • New York City – 1938-44
  • New York City I, 1942
  • Mondrian -New York City I, 1942
    • He used strips of colored paper and moved them about on the canvas to get the effect he wanted before he painted it
    • This is the start of a new phase of Mondrian’s work, i.e. the black lines and rectangles of primary colors have disappeared, replaced by primary colored lines interweaved with each other.
  • Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43
  • Mondrian - Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43
    • He loved NYC’s architecture and was fascinated by a kind of jazz, called boogie-woogie
    • It was one of his most famous paintings. Mondrian replaced the black grid that had long governed his canvases with predominantly yellow lines that intersect at points marked by squares of blue and red. These bands of color, interrupted by light gray, create paths across the canvas suggesting the city’s grid, the movement of traffic, and blinking electric lights, as well as the rhythms of jazz.
  • Final Remarks on Mondrian
    • Created about 250 paintings in his lifetime, and was famous during his lifetime
    • Died in 1944 of pneumonia
  • Activity: Easy Hand-Drawn Mondrian Squares
    • Supplies: White paper, 7” x 7” square cardboard template (could also use posterboard), pencils, crayons (black, red, yellow, and blue)
    • http://www.teachkidsart.net/easy-mondrian/
    • My example (I used markers and a sharpie)
    • Mondrian1
    • Another example (not sure if this was done by kid or one of our interns)
    • Mondrian2

The Woman Who Would Be King

The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

Hatshepsut's Cartouche

I’ve been wanting to read this for awhile, and so when I was browsing for a new audiobook to read, I grabbed for this one. This book was a very intriguing glimpse into the Egyptian royal family in the Eighteenth Dynasty, religion/mythology, and culture. I figured that naturally a pharaoh’s wife/daughter would be involved in religious ceremonies, but I had never heard of her duties as “god’s wife of Amun”, or that it would be so sexual. It was a bit odd to think about the Egyptians believing that the world was started by a god masturbating. The intricacies of palace life are a bit over my head, but I know that I would not have wanted to be a royal woman in Egyptian times as their lives were so rigid and controlled.

The book goes into great detail about Hatshepsut’s father Thutmose I, who was not the original successor to the throne but most likely a high powered general, and her mother Ahmose (the great wife – chief among all the wives and harem). Hatshepsut herself was married to her half-brother Thutmose II, who was the third in line to the throne originally, but was sickly and died early. She next ended up begin regent to her toddler step-son Thutmose III, and later because she was “intellectually ambitious” seized the chance to be co-king with him. She bought her support with the elites of the kingdom and started an extensive building program, originally started by her father Thutmose I. The co-regency was also a time of great peace and prosperity, as evidenced by her very successive journey to Punt.

Hatshepsut Expediton to Punt

Part of Hatshepsut’s wall painting of the Expedition to Punt from her Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri,  Luxor, Egypt

The Mortuary Temple of King Hatshepsut, aka the Djeser-Djeseru, the Holy of Holies

Entrance to Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri, Luxor, Egypt. Called Djeser-Djeseru, aka “Holy of Holies” [this is someplace I’ve always wanted to go, even before I read this brilliant biography]

As much as some historians try to claim that she was a ruthless power-grabber who took advantage of a precarious political situation for her own gain, I really think that she was trying to not let her father’s legacy die out and took the opportunity to rule a bit. Yes it was not traditional and she stretched all kind of boundaries, including revamping/re-sexing the gods but it worked for her and her people at the time. And if there was disension in the ranks, so to speak, Thutmose III didn’t speak up about it until he was pretty much full-grown. In fact he didn’t deface or knock-down her sculptures until the very end of his reign, and even then, it seems to be more about a succession issue (putting a son with no royal connections on the throne) than actual contempt of his aunt I think. It’s hard to make an accurate assessment of the time because there was no written record of how others felt about it, instead having to go on a lot of conjecture as the author/historian does in the book. So yeah, she makes a lot of assumptions, but I agreed with most of it. 5 stars.

hatshepsutbust

Seated Hatshepsut statue

Hatshepsut as King with feminine attributes

Sept 2015 Book Reviews

Ok, I will be the first to admit that my blog posting has been slowing down a lot lately, mostly due to a combination of tiredness, being bored with it, and not having any fresh idea for posts. My reading and reviewing have been even slower. I finished my last group of ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copies) at the beginning of Sept and am just starting the group that comes out in November.  Most of the November ARC books come out the first few days of the month, so I’m trying to read the books and write the reviews now so they’re out of the way. I am currently reading an ARC called The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild. The description was interesting, but the main human character’s story is a bit boring and I’m hoping it gets to the painting’s history soon as that seemed more engaging. I was reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) by Diana Gabaldon, but since I own that book, it will be on the back burner until I can finish and write the review for the Rothschild book (even though I’m not allowed to post it until November). I’m finishing up Kara Cooney’s audiobook version of The Woman Who Would be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt, which has been a fascinating read and the perfect setup for the class I will soon be starting on Ancient Near Eastern History.

I think this may be the last large book review I do for awhile. I’m getting kind of bored with them. I’ll probably still do the large children’s reviews because I tend to read so many of them and I like sharing the pictures. I think I might do more individual book posts, whatever I’m reading, including ARCs. And I like posting about my Kids Cafe Art Lectures, even if I don’t do them anymore. As always, I rate my reviews on a scale of 1 – 5, with 1 being the lowest, and I post pics of children’s book illustrations that I like.

Children

Shape by Shape written and illustrated by Suse Howard

I picked this book as part of my Toddler Dinosaur Storytime and it was perfect for it. I love cut-out books and this had cut-outs, shapes and a dinosaur, so what kid isn’t going to love it. I got the kids to identify the shapes as we went along. Recommended for ages 2-5, 3 stars.

Beautiful Birds written by Jean Roussen, illustrated by Emmanuelle Walker

Beautiful Birds

This book is simply gorgeous with fabulous illustrations. It’s hard to believe it’s an ABC book. I like the the authors picked out-of-the-ordinary birds to introduce kids to new kinds, like “X is for xanthocephalus,” and “L is for Lyrebird”. It’s even cooler because the whole thing is voiced by a peacock, who proclaims himself “the most beautiful bird.” The front end pages features different kinds of eggs and the back has the eggs hatched with their corresponding baby birds. Highly recommended for ages 2-5, 5 stars.

I am Going! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Piggie interrupts her play with Gerald to say that she is going, which of course sets Gerald off. He is devasted that she wants to leave, for who will he skip, play ping-pong and wear silly hats with? Piggie assures him that she is going to lunch, not leaving forever. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Can I Play Too? written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Can I play Too

My son just adored this book! Elephant and Piggie are about to play catch together when a little snake comes up and asks to join them. They are unsure of how this would work, but they will try. They start throwing the ball to him, but it keeps bonking him in the head. My son would giggle every time the poor snake got bonked. After many attempts, they decide to play catch a different way. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

If You Plant a Seed written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

If you plant a seed

My son has decided that he really likes this book and has asked to read a bunch. It’s about gardening, the benefits of being patient and kind and the pitfalls of selfishness. It stars a bunny and mouse who have decided to plant some seeds. They wait patiently and in time have a tomato, carrot and cabbage plant. Some curious birds want some of their food, and at first they refuse, a fight breaks out and all of their food is destroyed. Then the mouse does an act of kindness and their whole world is turned around. I absolutely adore the simple story and the gorgeous painted illustrations by the fabulous Kadir Nelson. Seriously, this man can do no wrong in my book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Ewe and Aye written by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Stephanie Ruble

A co-worker introduced me to this book and I thought it was cute enough to bring home to my son. Ewe (a female sheep) and Aye (a male lemur, I think) are friends. They both dream of flying but Ewe wants to do it with wheels and Aye with wings. Neither of them can achieve their goals individually, so they work together to accomplish them. Recommended for ages 2-5, 3 stars.

The Boy and the Airplane written and illustrated by Mark Pett

A co-worker introduced me to this book and I liked it, so I brought it home for my son. A wordless picture book about (surprise) a boy and his toy airplane, but one that my son could easily tell me the story. The boy is so excited to get a new toy airplane that when he finally lets it fly for real, it immediately lands on the roof where he can’t reach it. So he plants a seed and waits for it to grow into a tree, so he can get it down. When it finally does grow high enough and he gets it back, he is an old man, so he gives it to someone who can better appreciate it. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

The Big Princess written and illustrated by Taro Miura

The Big Princess

My son and I have been waiting awhile for this book to come out, after completely falling in love with The Tiny King. This second book in the series tells the story about the Tiny King’s wife, the Big Princess, and how she came to be so tall. A King and his wife had a beautiful garden and yearned for children. One night, the King had a dream and a white bird came to him in the dream and told him that he would get a baby princess but she would come with a terrible curse that had the potential to crumble his kingdom. The next day, the Kind and Queen found a tiny princess smaller than a flower in their garden. They devised a tiny bed made out of a feather for her, but every morning the princess would outgrow it. She kept on growing and growing until they had to put her in the tower and it was then that King finally broke the spell and saved the kingdom. I love the illustrations for this series, as they are bold and colorful, but simple. Recommended for ages 4-7, 5 stars.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by John Klassen

This book has a cute premise, but I think Barnett and Klassen have done funnier/better books together. This one won a 2015 Caldecott Honor. Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole with their dog, looking for buried treasure. The only problem is they are always so close to it, but never quite reach it. And then they dig down so far, they end up on the other side of the world or another dimension. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Dear Tyrannosaurus Rex written by Lisa McClatchy, illustrated by John Manders

Another book I picked for Toddler Dinosaur Storytime, which didn’t work as well as I would’ve liked mostly because it dragged a lot. But it had an adorable premise. A little girl desperately wants a T-Rex to come to her birthday and writes him a letter saying all the stuff they will do together at her party. She gets her wish in the end. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Oliver written and illustrated by Birgitta Sif

Oliver

I adored this story of a little boy who is perfectly content playing by himself and making his own imaginary friends. Who doesn’t love a kid with a great imagination? One day he meets another little girl who does the same thing. They become the best of friends. He has found someone who completes him. I loved the quirky illustrations that went with this book, which really told the story, as the written storytelling left a bit to be desired. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

A Bean, A Stalk, and a Boy Named Jack written and illustrated by William Joyce and Kenny Callicutt

How can I not love this story?! It was created by William Joyce, one of the most imaginative and brilliant children’s writers and illustrators out there, plus Kenny Callicutt, an art graduate of my undergraduate alma mater, VCU. It is a clever take on the Jack and the Beanstalk story involving a young boy, a talking bean, a wizard, a massive drought and one stinky pinky. Check it out for the full story! It has great illustrations and a cute story. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Young Adult

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Adult

Come Hell or Highball (Discreet Retrieval Agency #1) by Maia Chance

Ophelia’s Muse by Rita Cameron

The Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey #3) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodman and Rick Holmes

This book was narrated back and forth between Lord John and Jaime Fraser, and their adventures together in Ireland. It is fourteen years after the Battle of Culloden, and Jamie has been working as a horse groom at Helwater House in England for the past three years. He is trying to avoid another attempt to re-instate the Stuart monarchy in England and organized by Jamie’s associate Quinn (an Irishman who was close to Prince Charles Stuart when Jamie and Claire were helping the cause previously in Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2)). Lord John is trying to court marshall an officer in the army, Major George Siverly, who was accused of foul play by Charlie Carruthers, his friend who had died in Canada in the previous book, The Custom of the Army. Will Jamie and Lord John be able to stop the new Jacobite rebellion and figure out  5 stars.

The audiobook had great readers and I liked that they used two different people for the story, to complement the different narratives. I’m not sure why they can’t actually get a Scottish person to do the accent though. I honestly loved this book because it really gave you a glimpse into Jamie’s back story, especially his time at Helwater, his relationship with William, and how much he really missed Claire during the twenty years they were separated between Outlander books two and three. This information is hinted in other Lord John Grey and Outlander books but not implicitly stated. His story was really the main purpose of the book, as the title suggests, and Lord John is placed a bit on the back burner. Not to say that Lord John doesn’t have some fun times, i.e. finally hooking up with Stephan Van Namtzen! It’s about bloody time. They’ve been flirting with each other for the whole series so far, but nothing had really come of it minus a few kisses. Plus I loved that Stephan got Lord John a daschund to match his own. I never knew that daschund means “boar hound” and that’s what they were originally bred for doing. The author is not shy about sex, as the reader might have noticed from previous John Grey and Outlander books. I mean the first sentences in the book are about Jamie getting off after dreaming of Claire, not to mention the whole scene with Stephan and Lord John. I was intrigued to learn about Minnie, Lord John’s sister-in-law, and her father’s spy business in Paris and that she knew Jamie from when he and Claire were living there.

The Big Book of Slow Cooker, Casseroles & More by Betty Crocker

I love using my slow cooker but never really use it, so this seemed as good a place as any to look for some recipes. My mom always used her Betty Crocker classic cookbook when I was going up, so knew they would have some decent recipes. I made the Korean Beef and the Cheesy Tater-Topped Chicken Casserole, which were both okay but not sure I would make them again. I would like to try Jambalaya, Mediterranean Minestrone Casserole, Caramelized Onion Pot Roast (which used the slow cooker), and the Cheesy Gnocchi Florentine and Triple Ginger Pound Cake (which used the oven) in the future. 3 stars.

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Pablo Picasso

I feel kind of glazed over today as I’m fighting a cold (yes you can get them in the summer, even in the desert apparently) and it’s been a rather long day. Aside from that, I have managed to get a fair amount of work done so far this week since Sunday, so I am pleased with that.

This Kids Cafe was pretty cool because I only knew the basics about Picasso, so I got to learn a lot as well. He does have the longest name of any historical figure (that I’m aware of at least). I knew he was the father, so to speak, of Cubism, but I didn’t really know anything about his other art periods. I also had no idea that he even did sculpture, collages or etchings. He had an amazingly large body of work. The kids had an interesting time with the Picasso-style portaits, and I did have a few takers for the Cubist guitars as well.

KC Pablo Picasso – March 27

self-portrait-picasso-1901

Self-Portait, 1901

  • “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ” Pablo Picasso
  • Biography
    • Born Oct 1881 in Spain
    • He was named after various saints and relatives: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso.
    • When he was 7 yrs old, his father (who was also a painter) gave him training in figure drawing and oil painting
  • First Major Paintings
  • Le Picador, 1889
    • 1st painting at 9 yrs, Le Picador 1889 – a man riding a horse in a bullfight
    • First Communion, 1895
    • 1st major “academic” work was First Communion, 1895 which featured his father, mother and younger sister kneeling before an altar – he was 15 yr old when he finished it
  • Background Info
    • At age 13, Pablo studied art in Madrid and then went to Paris when he was 19. In 1900 Paris was considered the art capital of Europe.
    • Paris Opera House circa 1900
    • In 1905, American art collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein began to collect his work and helped to make him famous. It was through them that he met fellow artist Henri Matisse and the two became lifelong friends.

      Aside from paintings, Picasso also created ceramic and bronze sculptures, drawings, etchings and poetry. He was also famous for doing collages (gluing previously unrelated things together with images), like his friend Matisse.

    • His work is divided into 4 major periods
  • The Blue Period (1901-04)
    • These were sad paintings done in blue and green colors
    •  Old Guitarist, 1903
      • The Old Guitarist, 1903
    • The Rose Period (1905-1907)
      • These were happier and done in orange, red, oranges and beiges
      • Les Baladins (Mother and Child, Acrobats) 1904-05
        • Les Baladins (Mother and Child, Acrobats), 1904-05
      • The African-Influence Period (1908-1909)
        • African artworks were being brought back to Paris museums after the French Empire established colonies in Africa
        • Picasso liked the expressive style of the African masks and sculpture
        • Head of a Woman, 1907
          • Head of a Woman, 1907 and Dan Mask
        • The Cubism Period (1909-1921)
          • He is famous for being the co-founder (with Georges Braque) of Cubism, a style of painting where the subjects are broken up and re-painted in an abstract form
          • Three Musician, 1921
            • Three Musicians, 1921
        • Other Famous Works
        • Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
          • Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
          • Guernica, 1937
            • Guernica is one of Picasso’s most well-known works and was created in response and in protest to the 1937 bombing of the Basque village of Guernica in Northern Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The large, 25.6 ft wide and 11 ft tall mural emphasizes the horrors of war and the suffering inflicted on innocent civilians.
            • Guernica, 1937
            • scale of Guernica
              • Guernica and Scale of Guernica pic for comparison
          • Dove of Peace, 1949
          • Dove of Peace, 1949

Activity: either Picasso Portraits (http://www.thatartistwoman.org/2012/02/in-style-of-picasso-portraits.html) or Guitars (http://artwithmrssmith.blogspot.com/2009/07/picasso-and-guitars.html)

Below are my examples of both the Guitar and Picasso portrait. I liked the guitar better. I had some examples of Cubist facial features (found somewhere online, can’t remember exact source) as well laminated to help the kids decide what to use for the portraits, featured below my examples:

Picasso Guitar example         Picasso Portrait example

 

Picasso Portrait details