Archive for the 'Fine Arts' Category

What are your hobbies?

needle & thread 1When I was taking Japanese classes, one of the first conversational questions we learned to ask and respond to was: “What are your hobbies?”

For several years, my answer has included:

  1. Writing (blogging)
  2. Reading
  3. Needlework (cross stitch, crochet, sewing)

Now I’m wondering if I should scratch #3. According to Unclutterer, it may be time to say farewell to a hobby if I’ve spent less than 10 hours or less on it in the last 12 months. I have not sewn anything more complicated than a button since July 2007.

The thought of clearing any bit of my stash is depressing. I’ve got about three large packing boxes full of sewing supplies, books, and magazines sourced from all over the world. I’ve ordered old magazines from eBay and collected a marvelous load of goodies during the four-plus years we were in Japan. Most of my stash is irreplaceable and was already hard to find in the first place. It would be MADNESS to get rid of it, right?

I’m thinking that someday when the kids are old enough to leave my stuff alone, I’ll be able to set-up a stitching corner for myself. Right now, having needles and pretty colored thread laying about is too tempting and dangerous for little hands. And having only late nights to stitch isn’t great for my eyesight nor do I have the stamina for it anymore.

In any case, if the ultrasound was accurate and baby #2 is a girl, I’ve got plans to make a kimono-clad dolly for her from a kit I bought that was designed by a Japanese crafter. I hope it will turn out as half as cute as the dolls joybucket makes.

What are your hobbies?

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Finally Stitching Again

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Finally, after pledging several months ago to regain my sanity and start stitching again, I’ve done it. This is the progress I’ve made on the teapot cross stitch I started in 2004.

teapots cross stitch Current 13 Jun 04teapots cross stitch 24Oct04teapots cross stitch 8Nov04

Some earlier pics of my progress from June, October, and November 2004.

I’d really like to get this one done so I can start on the Amanda Loverseed Cut Thru’ Rocket.

By the way, Jean has been stitching too and even started her own online store – Needle Little Love. She has some gorgeous designs that I haven’t seen elsewhere. I especially like the Tournicoton patterns .

And so the stitching madness begins again….

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Taking Better Photos

Canon Powershot SD400 5MP Digital Elph Camera with 3x Optical ZoomWhen we finally got pregnant in 2001, the first thing I bought for the baby wasn’t baby clothes, furniture, or toys – it was a digital camera. I knew that I’d want to document this kid’s every waking moment and as it turns out, the camera has been used to document everything for my amusement and yours! ;) Our digital cameras and computers bring us more enjoyment than any kitchen appliance, clothing, or jewelry (now you see where my interests lie).

The fun(ny) thing about digital cameras is that you can take as many pictures as you want and have a giggle sorting through them without wasting money printing them out. But no matter how many pictures you take, if they all suck, it’s still a huge waste of time not to mention lost opportunity.

Luckily, there are people out there willing to offer some advice. Darren Rowse recently opened Digital Photography School that’s filled with basic photography tips and ideas for special occasions. Here are his 10 ways to add variety to your digital photography.

  1. Shoot your subject at different focal lengths
  2. Shoot your subject from different angles
  3. Shoot using different formats
  4. Avoid the Group Shot Blink
  5. Use continuous exposure modes
  6. Move your Subject around
  7. Try Exposure Bracketing
  8. Experiment with different ?modes?
  9. Play with your Flash
  10. Tell a story

You can tell Darren knows what he’s doing when you see the collage of pictures he took of his brother. Read the article for more details because if you’re like me, you might not have an idea of what he means by focal lengths and exposure bracketing.

Also for us parents, be sure to read Photographing Birth Scenes, Photographing Babies, and Photographing Children. Darren’s soon-to-be new baby is lucky to have such a talented photographer for a dad!

Do you fancy yourself a good photographer?

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Inflation by Istvan Banyai


The Atlantic Monthly, May 2005

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Watercolor Portrait

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Several people have asked me about my new user pic.
It’s a watercolor portrait of me painted in 2000 by Yabuno, an artist friend in Nagoya, Japan.
I had the honor of modeling for a couple of his watercolor classes and this was one of the paintings that resulted.
My mother says it looks like Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Blog Slogan

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Back to Me, StoryPeople, Brian Andreas, 1993

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The Effect of Cataracts on Monet’s Art

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“Claude Monet painted the Japanese bridge in his Giverny garden near Paris in 1899 (left). The same scene, which he attempted to capture again between 1918 and 1924, shows that cataracts had blurred his vision and that the yellowing of his lenses had impaired his perception of blues and greens, leaving him in a world filled with murky reds and browns.”

From Scientific American, October 2004.

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Art of the Masters

Some of the most popular souvenirs in Vietnam are hand-painted reproductions of paintings by Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, and other old masters. These fakes sell for as little as $40 USD.

Drawings for the tourist market that depict local scenery are often hand copied in the thousands based on templates. One such piece hangs on our living room wall. Provided by building management, it is a pastel sketch of workers in a rice paddy. Take a look at the kind of mistakes that can happen in the copy shop.

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Either the second worker from the left in light blue is missing a head or
a hat is missing an entire body except for one leg.

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Sorry about the glare.

Homegrown Vietnamese artists, such as Ho Huu Thu, do produce splendid original artwork, but even they are being copied by unscrupulous gallery owners. (Newsweek International, March 14, 2005) Like antiques, high prices in impressive surroundings dupe some foreigners into believing they’re buying authentic one-of-a-kind art. Sometimes, the artists themselves participate in the mass production of a certain style or motif if previous ones sold well.

Marv and I would like to purchase at least one piece of original art while we’re here. But given the situation and our amateur understanding of art, it’s possible that we won’t be able to afford the risk.

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Ukrainian Eggs

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Years ago, my sister learned how to make Ukrainian eggs at school. When we saw how beautiful her eggs were, we all wanted to give it a try.

For several weeks, my father, mother, sister, and I sat around the kitchen table sketching our designs on eggs with #2 pencils. We then dyed the eggs, traced the parts of the pattern that we wanted to keep in that color using beeswax in kistkas, dyed the next darkest color, and traced with wax again, repeating until almost the entire egg was covered with wax. When we were finished, we heated the eggs slightly over a candle flame and rubbed off the melted wax with tissues. When the eggs had dried for a while, we sprayed some varnish to make them shiny. Some of the dozens we made are still sitting in cardboard egg cartons on one of my parents’ shelves.*

Whenever I see pictures of Ukrainian eggs, I still feel warm and fuzzy remembering the time I spent making these intricate pieces of art with the most important people in my life at the time. It ranks as one of my favorite childhood memories.

*We must have looked really strange when buying eggs at the supermarket because we’d examine each one for cracks or other imperfections and swap eggs between cartons. One nosy woman even muttered that we weren’t supposed to be doing that. Guess there are some unwritten egg buying rules that I’m not aware of.

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Eye Catching


Laure Drogoul, The Root (Blue-Eyed)

Laure’s big head was taken directly from Evergreen’s collection of Japanese decorative arts–the Japanese lacquer, netsuke, and inro collections. She studied the collection and designed her own gigantic netsuke–a mask netsuke from Japanese theater. She wanted it to look like it fell out of the tree. The inside of the head is like an apothecary’s inro–a very small compartmentalized purse worn on the belt of a kimono–which she’s filled with herbs, medicines, and plantings.

Laure is an artist who sees a connection in just about everything she does. The head is a devil, which is, of course, a symbol of evil. But she’s also pasted all kinds of maps–from Baltimore to the Middle East–to the head, and hovering above the map surfaces are images of snakes, garden flowers, and large, menacing flies. She wants people to make visual connections. She wants to make references–to war, to the ‘blue-eyed devil’–and to make people think.

Excerpted from Johns Hopkins Magazine, September 2004

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