Jan 30, 2014

My Dad My Hero

Yesterday, my Dad passed away. He lost his battle, but fought a good fight. We all got to say our last words to him and we got to tell him what an amazing Dad he was to us.  I am an extremely lucky girl! Extremely lucky. To have a Dad so supportive, so loving, so full of laughs and good times who was supportive and full of good advice. He loved his family, especially his children and grand children. He figured out how to give us a good playful life, even if he couldn’t afford it. I just recently realized how he was my first exposure to the “Do It Yourself World"! We had an attic with a tent to play in, a basement with an actual swing to swing on, an ice rink in the back yard to skate on, a crow’s nest and a tree house to climb up and play in. Plenty of  swimming pools, a swing set,a sand box,  a sliding board and a see saw. A sliding board that eventually turned into how we got from the wooded dirt hill behind our house to our back yard.  A swimming pool that evolved from a Donald the duck vinyl pool to individual swimming pools (Dad’s invention where we each got a large trash bag to stand in and filled with water!) to our summers at Rollingwood Swimming Pool. Vacations to the beach, to Canada in  a rented Winnepego, across country with a pop up tent camper, to Williamsburg and Florida! We had a house full of Dave Brubeck, Carpenters and sesame street music.  Bedtime stories that always had us in the woods  on cold windy nights.  Our favorite dinners included cooking hot dogs on the end of long sticks in the fireplace, and then there was breakfast for dinner! Once I became a teacher with a teacher salary, I realized why we had these dinners!
             My Dad was a teacher who turned into a guidance counselor who advanced to being a supervisor of Guidance for Baltimore County Schools. We were brought up with visits to his schools and offices. I got to see him a lot when I went to Towson State. Usually to get some more money for my art supplies. And if I played my cards right, I would get to meet him for lunch out with his Guidance Department. Many conversations about the public school system and its ups and downs occurred during these lunches. We heard these conversations a lot over dinner as well. Somehow, all of that snuck into my psyche. I never thought I would be a teacher, even though playing a teacher as a kid was one of my favorite games to play (course my stuff animals were perfect students, who could have topped that job?).

 I was going to be an artist. I was going to have some sort of career, in which I could make something, be artistic and challenge my creativity. I got accepted into both Towson State University and Maryland Institute, College of Art and I was determined to go where I wanted to go. Dad decided that we would talk about this decision at a Colts Football game. We had 2 season tickets in which Dad got to go  every game and take one of us. It was my turn to go, armed with a thermos of hot chocolate and a blanket , we drove to Dad’s parking Spot on Hopkins’s Campus and walked down 33rd Street to Memorial Stadium with no mention of school. Just the “isn’t this great Jennifer? Think about it if you go to Towson, we could go to their football games! I replied back with “or you could continue to take me to the Colts games”. He saw he wasn’t getting anywhere with this logic so we settled with Towson because of the cost with an agreement that if I really wanted to go to MICA I would wait until my Junior year. My first lesson in manipulated compromise. A technique I use today for my classroom management
I ended up going to Towson for all four years, majoring in Fine Arts with a concentration in Painting. He let me do that. Knowing full well that my art was not going to make me a wealthy woman, but a woman of poverty. He would try to encourage me to take an education class, but I refused.  I graduated and worked my retail jobs for a while. Even moved out of the house and tried to make it on my own. Poverty and unchallenged jobs started to get to me, and the bills and student loan payments started to come in. I ended up getting that teaching certification and here I am, year 27 into my art teaching career. I can actually retire in 3 years and do what I intended to do in the first place: make art, run my own diy business and share my happy birdies all around the world!  I will miss you Dad so much. I will miss your “That’s Wonderful Jennifer” I will truly miss that! 
But I have this confession about death that always gotten me through. Such a loss. As a child I always felt that once someone close to you dies, that they are with you, looking over your shoulder, checking out what you are doing and making sure you are ok. I confess to talking to my grandparents on many occasions. And I know my Dad is here right now, looking over me, giving me the strength to move on and live my life the way he intended me to live it:  Live life to its fullest, take risks, learn from your mistakes and never let anyone nor anything take you down!  And most of all do what you have to do to BE HAPPY.

Jan 27, 2014

24, 25, 26 and 27 Jan 2014 Portraits

24 January 2014
Went swimming after school on this day to be the only person in the pool with a rapping life guard! This lasted during my first half mile that I swam. The second half became full of children and senior citizens. 

25 January 2014
I wish I could have taken my Dad to Scotland before he became so ill. He would have loved to have taken us kids. We would have been singing sounds and reenacting scenes from the sound of music (even though we would have been in Scotland). 

26 January 2014
Actually we cleaned the entire house, went grocery shopping and made a very healthy dinner for friends all day.....I actually did this on 27 January 2014 in the sweatshop. This is my first freehand machine stitched self portrait! 

27 January2014
I also did this on the 27th. Just a quick sketch on wood of me and my lucy-fur! My shadows and underfoot on these very cold days nights!

Jan 25, 2014

Portraits 22 & 23

These next two portraits are all about my frustrations with my teaching job. They both portray the insane expectations and amount of work put on us as teachers, that keep increasing without additional time nor money, and how powerless I feel. I'm wondering if there is a happy teacher out there anywhere.

Portrait 22 is titled " Why did I read my School email Today" or ""Why do I feel like every teacher is being punished because supervisors didn't have the balls to get rid of bad teachers" or" How many more jobs are you going to add to my job without giving me anymore money"...Oh I could keep on....

Portrait 23 "the area of decision" 

Jan 22, 2014

Portraits 20 & 21

So I decided to take a vacation of sorts from observing my real self, and thought for this beautiful snowy weather to put myself in a different place, of a different time as a different person. Or where I wouldn't mind escaping to. The first one is taken from this photo:
This is a photo of me and my friend Missy form 1983, I think, taken by Stuart Stein for one of his paintings.  And then I found a great interior shot from a 1963 Interior Design magazine I had found in an antique shop many years ago. Did a little bit of photoshop and here we are: 

And then I saw this ad for this furniture company that reminded me of that famous photo of the Abstract Expressionist group of the New York school . I had always dreamed of being part of an artist group that had some influence on the art world...so I put myself in their happy group! 

Jan 21, 2014

Jennyjen in American Craft Magazine!

Woothoot!!!! My pelican bag was featured in an article about the Baltimore Art scene in this month's American Craft magazine! .Even better is that I was named as textile artist that is part of the Schulman Project, which also got a nice write up in the article! Go Benji! So excited to see Charm City getting its well deserved props!

19 JAnuary 2014 FunAday

My Portrait for 19 January2014 has been inspired by my new glasses. Which are not really new, but are new. I lost my glasses in December and finally got around to going to get a new pair. Happily they had the same frames that I had fallen in love with! I had fun with photoshop and some found paper for the final result!  

Jan 19, 2014

Updated Portraits Continued: 16, 17 & 18

I'm getting caught up.

14, 15 & 16 January 2014

Trying to get caught up. These are all in progress.

Jan 18, 2014

Lucky to be Don McBrien's Daughter

Ok, I have fallen behind in my funaday self portraits and my daily posts to my blog.  I'm sorry, but  these last days, and my future days, have been, and will be, extremely hard, heavy headed and very hard to handle. My dad is dying. He is very sick with a bad heart. And this is the first time that I have put these words and thoughts down in writing.  I am trying to catch up and attempt to write what my family and I have been going though. I am extremely thankful that my family all live in the area and are there for my dad and his wife and each other to help each other get through this. I love my sister and brother with all of my heart. I know I am extremely lucky and blessed to have them both and that we support each other. I have watched us be as strong as we can be through this. I am so proud and thankful for both my brother and sister. I am so thankful for my amazing and supportive husband, family and friends . We are our father's children and know what we must do.We must be strong and supportive and live this life to its fullest degree and be as happy as we can be! NO EXCUSES!

 I took a walk in the woods this morning.   I feel so lucky living so close to Wyman Park. I walk the trail along Rocky Run to get to my studio, many times to get my head on straight. Today, I think about the times my dad drove me to Hopkins, through San Martin Drive to his parking place at Hopkins, to walk along 33rd street to the Memorial Stadium for my time to go to the Colts game. Armed with a thermos of hot chocolate and a blanket,pass the triangular house on the right and the  movie theater with the relief greek actors on the left. Each time watching them go into a slow decay. We got to take turns doing this with our Dad, my siblings and I. We look forwards to not really going to the game, but towards having this one special Sunday afternoon with our Dad. He would either drive to his parking space, or we would walk down the street to the Paradise bus stop to catch the special bus to the stadium. My Dad has always made all of us feel special. Even me the middle kid. I didn't become a teacher to prove something to my parents, the educators, but because I am my parents kid. We all became teachers and guidance counselors of some kind. Be it in career or in our own families. Thank you Dad for everything!

Jan 13, 2014

Jan 11, 2014

Self-Portraits in progress: 09Jan 2014, 10Jan 2014

Portraits under construction:

First time using water based oil paint! Was completely surprised by them...think I may be in love
THis was for THursday, Jan 9, 2014...till working on it

I didn't get very far yesterday. Took off for a mental health day and join the Y to swim a mile. THen I had to go see my dad in the hospital. 

Jan 8, 2014

8 jan 14 Portrait

Another crappy day teaching the children. Think this explains it? Should I add more?

Jan 7, 2014

I looked in to my Dad's eyes and saw Myself! Portraits # 6 and 7

  Here are portraits # 6 and 7. Both quite similar. Both done from observation and fairly quick. Today’s was quite wonderful though because I got to see my Dad’s eyes open and full of life! A slow recovery but seeing progress is heaven. I am so blessed to have his milky blue eyes.

Jan 5, 2014

Thoughts for My Dad

I love my Dad. More than life itself. I am me because of him. Not just in this physical world, but so much of me is my Dad. I went into teaching because of both of my parents, but I really stayed in that field because of him. He taught me about laughter and finding better ways to deal with the stress of the classroom. I have learned to live life to the fullest and ALWAYS, ALWAYS thrive for happiness, another huge lesson from my Dad.  To be diligent and work hard and if you can do it yourself, then do it yourself! My dad was the ultimate diy dad with many projects that included a skating rink in our back yard, tree houses, a crow's nest, a swing in the basement , a tent in the attic, cooking hotdogs on sticks in the fireplace, and my favorite..the individual swimming pool!

I know a lot of people know and love my Dad and I'm just asking for your thoughts and prayers. He is at St. Agnus Hospital with pneumonia and is not doing very well. He is a fighter just like  he has taught his kids to  be. So we are fighting for him with our love and thoughts and tons and tons of prayers.

Jan 4, 2014

Baltimore Fun A Day Project...here we go!

       Being that Advance Placement, Advance Studio Art High School teacher, I tend to get a lot of "do we have to?, how much time do you expect? when am I suppose to do all of this? ", you get the idea. I think they believe me to be a secretive ax murdered of their free time and expect them to be living and breathing art. Well...they did sign up for the course, so isn't that what they should be doing? I'm just getting them ready for that real world out there that really doesn't take too kindly to the "I'll do it later, can you do it for me, sop, sop sop. " I have always had this battle between teaching art and being art. I have to have it as part of my life, not just to teach it, but to actually do it. And I like being a role model for my stundets. Yes, I do what I expect my students to do! I want them to see me as an artist as much as, if not more than, me as their teacher!
I've done the sketchbook project a number of times and have enjoyed working on an art problem that has a deadline and a theme that I could work with or even create. I like working in series and I like tuning up my art skills. This year I'm going much bigger. This is what you do when you turn 50! You go bigger. So I've joined Baltimore Fun A Day  and I've committed myself to create a self portrait everyday of January. I've purchased 31 wood panels of various sizes and I've started. Why self portraits? I wanted to be able to be more expressive than I have been. This year , teaching has been a major challenge and I need another outlet besides making sweet birdy birds in my sweatshop. Plus I wanted to work on my drawing, composition and observation skills. So here are my first three below. Any feedback is highly appreciated.

1 January 2014

2 January 2014

3 January 2014

4January 2014