Monday, November 17, 2014

Sidewalk Chalk and The Gift of a Day

At the entry to my house, there is a special room which used to be the dining room, with a wonderful window looking out to the front yard, wood floors, and it feels sort of 'set aside' from the happenings elsewhere. I decided many years ago to turn it into our music room. Now it houses our upright piano, a music stand from which I practice and teach, and a really amazing moss green suede-like loveseat and ottoman. Most often, this loveseat is used by my students' parents during lessons. But here I sit, surrounded by my daughter's childhood wooden doll house at the window seat, the lovely pictures and art and sheet music, listening to the 'click, click, click' of the 'Circle of Fifths' clock I bought years ago, and I honestly cannot remember the last time I sat here. This is just one of those times when I am making an effort to actually relax, be exactly where I want to be, when I want to be there, and ENJOY my life.

It's officially 3 days into the last month of my forties, and I am realizing how much time and energy I have given to making other people feel happy, calm, fulfilled, loved, or doing other things because I feel I have to justify my existence. I don't exactly know why it has taken me this long to realize that is just not going to cut it. I'm sure its partially due to my overactive estrogen. But now that my three children are grown, and I've also figured out the hard way that I may be strong but I'm also only human, well, it's Lisa time.

Last weekend, I was blessed with an absolute GIFT of a day. Well, ALL days are gifts, that is true, but this time, it actually felt as if the universe were conspiring to make everything happen to just make me smile, relax, and feel happy in my own skin. All I could do was give thanks and go with the flow.

A few months ago I received an email for a 'Call for Artists' for the Osceola Fall Art Festival. Unfortunately, I have not been able to afford booth fees and the time it takes for outdoor festivals, but I have recently been wanting to participate in a sidewalk chalk event, which are usually free, and sometimes award cash prizes. I called to see if their festival included that event. I found that it did not for professionals, but that there were students participating, and I was told I could certainly chalk independently. The organizer also asked if I would like to mentor the kids, and / or serve as a judge. I was more than happy to do so, especially since my son's school had several teams participating. (He attends a school for the arts, as a vocalist, and these kids were from the visual arts department).

The morning of the event came, and there was absolutely no pressure to compete or finish, a beautiful day, and a perfect excuse to get out of the house and have fun! I originally had a complex photo to work from (it would have been a portrait of a child with a kitten), but once I realized that the event was only one day, and that I had to begin judging at 2 pm, I decided to do something completely organic that would allow me to freehand sketch instead of having to grid off a square. I had taken some photos of ducklings in a lake a few weeks ago, and so I decided to just go ahead and start in the middle of the square and get whatever I could get done in a couple of 'interrupted' hours.

I've participated in several sidewalk chalk events, but this is the first one that I really took the time to decide, (part of it was the fact that there were choices) as to which square to do, and more importantly, which direction to have my image facing. It was kind of funny because my architect brain kicked in and I was figuring out which way was North, since I wanted to make sure that the ducklings 'shade' side was going to look realistic throughout the day. There were squares in the shade, but in my photos the ducklings had a very strong bright, low sun on them, which was perfect for the day! I chose a sunny spot for that reason, and had them facing in a way so that they looked like they were actually swimming right there on that sidewalk as the sun spanned low in the winter sky from southeast to southwest.

Thankfully, this worked out in that I wasn't working in my own shadow! The bad news was that although the morning was cool, around noon time it got so hot! I have had really bad experiences in the past of working too hard and too long, and getting dehydrated. I was glad that I had chosen just a subject that I could work quickly and freehand from the center out, and just end when I needed to.

So around 12:30 I decided to go back to the car (it was wonderful because the show wasn't too big, and the parking space was close) to get a change of clothes. Then I stopped into a pizza place for a bite to eat, and it was wonderfully air-conditioned and even better, there was a party going on for the Gator game! I had loads of fun hanging at the bar, having a sandwich and about 10 glasses of ice water, thinking how much better it was to relax and not to have to worry about finishing the piece! whew!

So, after chilling out, cleaning all of the chalk off of me and changing clothes so that I looked human again, it was back to the chalk exhibit around 2 to meet up with the organizer and the other judges: Joella Lowe, art teacher for Osceola High School, and Scott Kauffman, Technical Specialist for Osceola County Schools. A funny side note- I had actually met Joella a few months earlier. I had decided to go see a matinee while waiting for my son to finish classes, and I ran into a woman dressed in a VERY elaborate "Maleficent" costume! So of COURSE we hit it off, and it was funny when I found out she was actually an art teacher at a field trip with her students!

The judging went well. I had never actually done that before, but Joella had a lot of experience with the process and really showed us how to 'fairly' rate everyone. It was kind of like being on a jury! Luckily there were not too many disagreements, and I we all agreed on the placements at the end. All of the kids (mostly high schoolers, with a couple of middle-schoolers) did a remarkable job.

I don't have photos for all of them, but "Best of Show" was given to "The Mad Hatter", created by a team of High Schoolers from Osceola County School for the Arts (OCSA). Here is a photo of the work in progress-

And a couple of others in progress that I really liked.

While I was judging, another wonderful gift! my little art student came up from behind me and 'tagged' me on my arm, sending me and my clipboard jumping! I was so glad to see her and her mom and little brother, and they had a lot of fun looking around. I wish I had more time to spend and sneak in some teaching!

(That chalking behind her of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" was coincidentally a favorite of hers and mine too!)

Another coincidence! My friend Brandy Renee happened to be the featured artist for the show, and so I got to go see her after judging. I always absolutely LOVE 'being inside' her art, as I tell her. What I mean by that is to be inside her studio, or art booth as the case may be, surrounded by her work feels amazing.  But also, each separate one of her works absolutely resonate with me. And I know I am not the only one. These days she is creating an incredible collection that makes you feel like you're walking in glittering, magical forests, and it's impossible to say which one I like the best. You just get completely lost and you never want to come out. This photo doesn't even do it justice- it's absolutely three-dimensional and if you look at it close up, it's crazy...

Speaking of which, earlier in the day, I had talked with Krisnau Ilham (visual arts major from OCSA), and he showed me a photo of his work that was hanging in the student art tent. The piece was really compelling, so on the way back to the car I decided to stop in and see it. I was completely astounded by this student's work. In his photo, I thought that it was all flat (but obviously textured), but it was actually created in 3 dimensions in really interesting mixed media. The composition, coloring, message, and 'stream-of-consciousness' spirit of the work was so wonderful. These photos I took really don't explain it well either. It was such a delight to see it. Amazing.

I had an owl stop me in my tracks, and then found out that it was done by a FOURTH grader! I looked further and found a few more of these owls. I'm not completely sure how the teacher did this lesson, but each work looked absolutely professional.

And talk about stopping in your tracks- this was my favorite thing I saw there I think - it was titled "Dragon". AND IT WAS DONE BY A KINDERGARTENER!

This work, and this day, showed me that the only way to really seize the joy of life is to relax and give myself permission to trust where my spirit takes me. To live for the present moment, not the moment to come. To be comfortable with the click, click, click of the clock, and to express whatever comes at the moment. That is what makes everything sing and sparkle around me. And that sometimes the best things in life are not only free, they are gifts, if we only open our eyes to them and not worry about time or money or profit. That's what I need to remember. That's what this five-year-old already knows.


  1. Lisa, this is great. I love this. Thank you...I am honored that my art gives you that. Truly ~ your ducks!! So cute!