Lettering and Librivox

I spent the last three months scanning, enhancing, resizing, and creating the web pages for over 660 letter images for the Public Domain Images section of my web site. Nearly every letter had to be redrawn, since the quality of the scans from these old books and magazines, when resized to large dimensions, were not very good. It was a big job, but I enjoyed the process.

One thing that helped to make this an enjoyable experience for me was my discovery of Librivox, where I was able to listen to classic literature online. Being an English major and teacher, I have always felt a little guilty about not reading some of the books from those “must read” classic literature lists. So I found this to be the perfect opportunity to read/listen to these great novels. I could redraw the alphabets while listening to volunteers from around the world read public domain books. I listened to The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen both narrated by the wonderful Elizabeth Klett. I listened to Pride and Prejudice, another Jane Austen classic, read by Annie Coleman, as well as another Wharton favorite, The Age of Innocence read by Brenda Dayne. I also managed to listen to the 49 hour reading of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and then Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, both read by a variety of different readers. I discovered that I enjoyed readings by single narrators rather than a variety of different readers because single readers often use distinct voices for the various characters, which helped me to keep the characters straight in my head.

What an amazing resource Librivox is. I am so grateful to the wonderful readers who took the time to volunteer to read these stories. I’m half way through Great Expectations and am looking forward to finishing it when I start working on my next round of images!

The Happiness Continues

The Art of Happiness – Page 45

My summer vacation is winding down. I’m trying to squeeze every last drop out of it. My to-do list has been fairly well completed, but my want-to-do list never ends– it just gets pushed around.

Yesterday I went to school to interview a woman who has applied to teach a history/English combo for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. It’s a challenging schedule, but her enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and positive attitude about teaching were awe-inspiring. I’m hoping she gets the job and some of her exuberance rubs off on me. After twenty-five years of teaching, I am always looking for new ideas and renewed inspiration.

After the interview, I got my keys and went into my classroom. All the student desks are piled up on one side of the room. I think (hope) they’re getting ready to clean my carpet. I look around, just to get my bearings, and pick up my “First Weeks of School” folder. Time to update my parent/student letter.

The first weeks of school are always exciting. I never fail to get butterflies in my stomach as I begin the first day and see 150 new faces anxiously looking up at me, wondering if my class will be fun and if I will be nice to them. A few years ago I began starting the first day by waiting at the door, shaking hands, and introducing myself to each student. I want them to know that I do care about them and am going to try to make their 7th grade year in English a positive one. When they get into class, I start by reading them the picture book The Teacher from the Black Lagoon. It’s about a boy who dreams that his teacher is a horrible monster, but at the end he wakes up and finds a lovely young teacher there welcoming him. I read it very dramatically (I almost have it memorized!) and I move around the room. I watch to see who laughs and smiles, and who resolves to wear a stony grimace throughout the tale. I know that they are the ones who I will have to work especially hard to win over.

The Art of Happiness – Page 46

The students are on especially good behavior those first two weeks. They’re well-mannered, quiet, attentive. It’s because they don’t know each other yet and are shy about talking. I do everything I can to get them to feel comfortable with each other, and that often becomes my undoing. The more at-ease they feel in my class, the less disciplined they become. They start to talk to each other more, and I find myself having to compete for their focus and attention. I have to start repeating myself and raising my voice to get them to settle down and listen to instructions. The more fun things we do, the more they expect — but we have a lot of serious work to do and I can’t be entertaining all the time. Before I know it, they feel comfortable enough with me to make little comments when something is “boring” (is there anything worse??) I’ve learned that I can’t please 150 twelve year olds all the time, but I do try.

I didn’t plan on writing about school today, I guess I just have some of that start-of-the-year anxiety. What I really wanted to talk about was the fact that I finished eight more pages in my Art of Happiness book.

I’ve been working on this book in spurts for the last four summers. Usually when I start working on it again, I re-read everything I’ve already done. It’s interesting to me to see how my choice of words for the poetry has changed from when I started writing it. I don’t have dates for when I completed the pages, but I can remember events that were occurring at different times while I was working on it. I can get a good idea of when I was feeling blue or when I was feeling more positive. It all comes through in my color and word choices as they unfold on the page.

The Art of Happiness – Page 49

Once school starts, my art has to go on the back-burner again. That’s one of the things that makes returning to work so difficult. I always have to remind myself that I’m lucky that I got so much time to myself in the first place, it’s just that it goes by so fast. Like the last four years working in this book. Four years! Where did they go?

U.S. History Images

Native American Drawings
Facsimile of an Original Indian Drawing of a Ceremonial Dance
Drawn with colored crayons and pencils by Big Back, a Cheyenne.
Source: Humfreville

For those of you who are not subscribed to my Yahoo Newsletter, I wanted to be sure and let you know about my new web site U.S. History Images. I started creating it last April. I decided that since I had so many books that focused on United States history, that I would create another site for just those images. It’s a big, long term commitment; it took me almost three months to get the last set of images online. So far I’ve included drawings and photographs from the discovery and conquest of North America and the Native Americans who were there when the Europeans arrived. I’m still deciding whether it’s appropriate to include South American indians on this site or not. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. I am using a ten volume set on United States history as my outline for time periods and events. I plan on adding images in chronological order as I find time, while still adding images to the Public Domain Images on my other site. I know, I know – I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. That’s what summer vacation does to me; it makes me feel invincible!

Paper and Money

Christmas Paper Dolls

When I was eight, I wasn’t getting an allowance or any money of my own. I don’t remember even thinking that it was a possibility to ask for money to buy something. It just wasn’t within my realm of experience at that time. So you can imagine my incredible glee when, as I was walking home from school, dragging the inside of my foot along the gutter in order to kick-up the leaves, I spotted a one dollar bill. A one dollar bill! I was so excited, I scooped it up and ran the rest of the way home.

“Look Mom! Look!” I breathlessly yelled to my mother as I proudly held the crumbled bill up for her to see. She was very happy for me and told me to put it in a safe place.

From the moment I got that dollar I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to spend it. Maybe I could buy some Barbie clothes, or some candy. Maybe I could get a 45 record like my older friend, Gail.

The next time Mom went shopping, she took me to the variety store in the little strip mall. I walked up and down the aisle. I had never really gone shopping for myself before, and I must have taken a long time checking the inky adhesive price tags on every little thing. It soon dawned on me that most of what I had originally wanted to buy was beyond my reach financially. But then I went to the coloring book section, and there on the top shelf, spread out in all their glory, were the smooth, colorful covers of the paper doll books. I don’t remember which ones I bought, but I do know that they were only a quarter a piece, and that I ended up buying four of them — one for me, and one for each of my sisters. Mom must have paid the tax . . . or maybe there wasn’t any tax. I really don’t remember.

I do remember that when I got home to my sisters and pulled the paper dolls out of the brown kraft paper bag, I got my first memory of what it felt like to buy something for someone else and how good it felt. We played with those paper dolls for hours. And even though my youngest sister was a little too young to cut them out, I helped her, and we had a lot of fun.

Other times, I would take the old Sears catalog and cut out the pictures of girls and their fashions and try to turn them into paper dolls. I even would try and make those tabs around the edges to keep them on the “dolls.” But the paper was too floppy, and it never worked out very well. Still, I could spend hours just cutting and trimming and giving each girl a name and a family and a history.

I loved paper dolls when I was little, so when I saw some French paper doll sheets for sale at a flea market a couple of years ago, I bought them, thinking I could use them in my art. And then I found some more in some old editions of Ladies Home Journal that I had purchased. So I decided to scan them, clean them up a bit, and put them on the Public Domain Images page on my web site. Now I have about fifteen pages of Paper Dolls and other vintage paper crafts on my web site.

As I was working on these images on my computer, I kept wanting to get back to making my Gothic Fairies. It occurred to me that when I’m making these little collages I’m cutting and pasting paper dolls again, and giving them names, and families, and stories, just like I did when I was a little girl. So I guess that love for paper never went away.

Book Arts Class

Skylar and Sloan

It’s four a.m., and I can’t sleep. It’s very dark and still except for the glow of the monitor and the hum of the CPU fan. Today will be my third consecutive day staying home from school. I have a nasty cold. It started with a sore throat and cough last week. I tried to fight it off by drinking lots of water and basically willing it to go away, but the cold had more tenacity than I did. By the end of school on Monday, I could barely talk. So I decided to just stay home and take care of myself. It’s hard to be in front of 130 twelve year olds when you feel lousy. And then I have the added joy of having to oh-so-discreetly cross my legs everytime I cough. It’s not a pretty sight. My husband hates it when I’m sick. Yesterday he said that if I would just think positive and act like I feel healthy, then I would be okay. So it’s all in my head, eh? Bring me a kleenex and leave me alone.

I’m not very good at lying around the house and doing nothing for the sake of getting better. So yesterday I scheduled some more ebay auctions for my gothic fairy collages. I’ve sold three so far but am in a quandry about how many times to list a piece before removing it from circulation. I don’t feel like giving up just because a collage hasn’t found a home yet. I know there’s somebody for each one of my small blessings; they just have to find their rightful owner. Maybe I’ll pull them after listing them three times and put them on the collage art page on my web site and try to sell them there.

Later on in the day I made some little sample books for the Book Arts class that I will start teaching on Monday after school. I have ten young ladies signed up for the class, and I’m very excited about making books with them.

For the first class I’m going to show a powerpoint presentation of some incredible artist books so they can get an idea of the unlimited possibilities for creating artist books. Many of the images I used are from the Guild of Book Workers’ 100th Anniversary Exhibition. You should really take a look at this site when you have some time to kill; the variety of artistic vision is breathtaking.

Next we’re going to make some 3″ X 4″ books that are folded from a single sheet of 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper. I got the recipes from Shereen LaPlantz’s great book Cover-to-Cover. I’m going to have lots of colored paper for them to use. I thought this would be a good way to introduce them to different types of folds, how to use a bone folder for scoring and creating nice tight creases (we’re going to use old credit cards as cheap imitation bone folders), and how to safely use an exacto blade for cutting.

I wanted them to make a little box in which they could put their finished books, and I found this neat Super Deluxe Tuckbox Template Maker where you can enter the dimensions of the box you want to create and it will make a custom template that you can print out on your computer. (The calculations on the template maker are a little off, so if you do this be sure to add .25 to all your dimensions, otherwise it will come out too small.) I printed my template on cardstock and made a cute little tuckbox for the books to fit in. I think the girls are really going to enjoy this.

I also plan on showing them my texture box so they can start collecting textures of their own since the next class will be all about decorating paper. I’m going to show them how to make a string stamp as their homework assignment. Hopefully at the next class we’ll have ten very cool string stamps that we can use to decorate our paper. I can’t wait!