As an artist, my goal is always to inspire, and although 2022 has presented many challenges, I continue to encourage those around me. This summer, we need a rest from the tension. It can be hard to rise above world circumstances and to stand up for what is right, while keeping one's creativity flowing! Let me encourage YOU!
With that in mind, Happy Summer and July!
Yes, our daughter, who knows me well, texted on July 1st, “Happy Birthday Month!”
People born in July are extra blessed, and I extend my best wishes to all born in July! In the Northern Hemisphere, my birthday occurs during summer, and I have been fortunate to celebrate in a variety of places. As a child, we often tent camped in Sequoia National Park. I have learned that fun does not always happen on its own—I believe it must be planned! I have enjoyed my special day in Paris (twice), Hawaii, Cambria, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Rancho La Puerta, riding bikes from Redondo Beach to Venice, Disneyland... I have spent my day with family, friends and alone (which can be very meaningful).
In the United States, July has become synonymous with celebrating liberty and July 4th—and I choose to celebrate freedom as I believe it was meant to be in our nation: freedom from persecution, to worship as we choose and to be allowed to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I praise God for my many blessings!
Proudly, I share a birthday with Emma Lazarus who penned the sonnet today displayed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty:
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
To get ahead or move more quickly, one must slow down…spend a little time “doing nothing” and dreaming.
If YOUR creative spirit calls to you on a regular basis—let me encourage you to show up, keep your tools in working order and have the grace to allow yourself to play! Music, dance, visual arts, writing— create alone or with others--- keep moving forward. Pursue your dream.
I am grateful for art friends who encourage me. And although I believe in healthy breaks from social media, it allows me to follow the paths of contemporaries, friends, past students and acquaintances—in their journeys. It is always a joy to see their progress!
My past summer journals and blogs—help me to check in. How does this year fit into the patterns of my life? Are there lessons to re-visit or projects to review? Have I made steady progress toward goals and released things no longer needed?
We were designed as creative beings. Our creative voice allows us to truly express who we are!
Slow down. Take time to be quiet. Perhaps research and celebrate a new holiday.
SPRING 2022 EVENTS
March Paint Out and Donation to educational programs at the 29 Palms Art Gallery
As always, my art is at
Cactus Mart, Morongo Valley
Rainbow Stew, Yucca Valley
Soul Connection, now in its new space, Joshua Tree
French Corner, Palm Desert
IlSogno (The Dream), Palm Desert
UPDATE --over $1200 was tent this spring.
This cause remains on my heart. I would love to exceed our last donation of $602.00 from the first Sunflowers for Ukraine auction! 80% of funds earned will go to Reach Global Ukrainian Relief Fund.
TO BID NOW - fill out the contact form below. Place your bid in the comment section. You can also DM me on Instagram or Message on Facebook.
Remember, I am not a professional auctioneer, do no have fancy software and will keep it simple.
Bids begin at $110.00 for each painting. I will post bids on Instagram and Facebook at Janis Commentz every OTHER evening beginning Thursday April 28th. Bids will close Wednesday May 4th at 6 pm PST. NOTE #2 and #3 look similar!
Out of the area buyers will be responsible for postage; my estimate is ($50)
As we speak and read—the situation in Ukraine grows more serious. The last figure I heard is 8.5 Ukrainians are displaced (either within or outside of Ukraine). Agencies are struggling to bring much needed supplies to these distressed individuals. Moms, kids, grandparents…my heart is broken for them
Currently, Reach Global is providing food, shelter, fuel, legal aid, counseling, transportation, translation, supplies, child care, and medical assistance.
Hiking on the High View Trail at Black Rock Campground
As I compose this post, so much is swirling in my head:
The power of words
The importance of our messages
Reaching out to those in need
The newness of spring
The striking contrast of my life to the pain felt in Ukraine
This has been an amazing month. In mid-March I held an auction donating all of the proceeds of three paintings to Reach Global Ukrainian Refugee Fund. I was pleased and touched by the generosity of donors! I am planning a second event soon, and currently 20% of the earnings from my Sunflower cards at my Etsy shop or sold locally are going the refugee fund as well.
It IS spring…
“Spring" sometimes refers to democracy movements…striving to create the newness and beauty of spring. Will this be possible for those in Ukraine and its surrounding nations – just trying to survive the current brutal attacks? We so desperately hope so.
As artists, we strive toward beauty – or message.
Writers and poets know the power of words. So do politicians. As children, we are encouraged to ignore cruel words. Yet,they leave can leave long lasting wounds. Indelible images of horror do not dissipate quickly.
The power of image and metaphor in the hands of a masterful artist, photographer, journalist…can make the world a better place. I applaud photojournalists who are currently telling truth in their work. I have long admired the work of photojournalist, Lynsey Addario, who is now covering the events in Ukraine.
As we hear the war news and consider its effects on our own world, we often say, “Oh I am fine. I am not in Ukraine.” But are we?
Each part affects the whole. The stress felt in my back is the result of so many factors. Each of us is certainly put together differently, (remember Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences?) but we all need peace of mind, health, relationships and creative pursuits. While parts of our world are in turmoil, how do we keep our own garden vibrant?
I found this in my journal from two year ago, at the onset of Covid:
Part of me is determined to continue my France journal, and the other part asks - oh my gosh - people are suffering so…does it matter?
Mind, body, spirit and soul are connected. Every aspect affects our creative life. For me, reading my bible, poetry, inspirational travel journals, watching short creative video clips of friends watercoloring, walking and gardening has kept me grounded. Spirit connects us with God, and our soul is where we express our passions.
If you can be creative in some way – cooking, sewing, dancing, painting, remember how important it is for your emotions and spirit!
Our spring has been blustery – but our desert is green, by Mojave standards! Last week, I taught a Desert Institute workshop in Joshua Tree National Park, and although strong winds blew our plein air class indoors—we had a lovely day. Participants always inspire me! I will be teaching a morning painting workshop at Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley May 7th. There may a spot left. If interested see details here.
Teaching the Desert Institute Class "Capturing Joshua Tree with Acrylics" April 16th
On that note, what is on my easel?
I, too, am a complicated amalgam.
The desert - my environment
Memories of places, people - the ocean, Carmel, France, England, family friends, strangers
Human figures – a fascination since I was a child.
I need to tend my own garden—my creative, intellectual, physical, spiritual garden alive and vibrant with color. And that is how we feed others… by sharing and feeding.
As we grieve for Ukraine and make efforts to help, I encourage you to nourish your creative spirit! Strengthen your capacity to share that joy with family, friends and even those on the other side of the globe.
1 29 Palms Oasis - paintings donated to education program at the 29 Palms Art Gallery; 2 "Joshua Tree Sunrise" in Southwest Art; 3 A friend caught me during Zoom group; 4 Cactus Mart - site of May 7th morning class; 5 "Joshua Tree Sunrise" sold the week the magazine came out-serendipity; 6 Cards at European Bistro - Il Sogno "The Dream" - Palm Desert
Dear Friends and Art Lovers,
As spring is on its way, we are reminded of events that- although far away, affect our world. This month, we long to come to the aide of humanity caught in this appalling war in Ukraine
Recently, I recorded in my journal words that express my hopes, despite the darkness:
humanity, kindness, nature, color, spirit, prayer, solidarity, sunflowers, friends, nourish, fight, determination, family, preservation, support, pride, integrity, truth, faith, hope, love, unity, justice, crisis, relief
As the week progressed - my words included resistance, bravery, admiration, persistence…
We have watched to many migrating, traveling with only what they can carry, children, pets. We have watched a brave leader who will not back down.
The Sunflower or Helianthus is an apt tribute and national flower for the Ukraine. There are over 80 species of sunflowers symbolizing positivity, strength, admiration and loyalty.
I am joining fundraising efforts to provide relief to Ukrainians.
This week, am auctioning three sunflower paintings on Instagram and will donate 100% of the proceeds to Ukrainian Refugee Response fund mobilized by ReachGlobal to support Ukrainian refugees.
If you are not on Instagram and would like to place a bid, please email me at email@example.com I will close bidding on Wednesday, March 16th at 4 pm PST.
I am willing to ship within the United States, and if you would like a painting mailed to you elsewhere, I ask that you pay the postage.
As we watch this crisis unfold, we are reminded that Ukraine has had a sophisticated art culture for centuries – and a vibrant art culture has thrived in recent decades.
Currently, art and museums are not immune to the attack. I am sharing two thorough articles from well-known periodicals (ArtForum and Smithsonian Magazine) reporting what is happening in the Ukraine.
As Easter approaches – a perfect symbol of rebirth are pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs which are decorated using the wax-resist (batik) method and covered in stunning motifs often taken from Slavic folk art.
Photo source: Smithsonian. Maria Prymachenko, Our Army, Our Protectors, 1978. Russian forces destroyed a museum which housed dozens of Prymachenko’s paintings.
Photo credit: mymodernmet.com
May we continue to support and pray for the Ukraine and peace.
I hope this season finds you well. As usual, I keep busy creating and teaching.
I have two spring painting workshops coming up and continue to sell cards and stationery at my Etsy Shop, French Press and Mojave Inspiration.
Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. "
Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love
This quote is true on many levels and seems most fitting now.
Winter is a time for amazing light. Painters understand that the long shadows are cast as the sun "moves south” creating this wonder. We long for the light during those long winter nights and celebrate with feasts of light.
I love to paint outdoors, but even on a dull or chilly day, I have hundreds of photos from local hikes and travels to provide creative sparks! Left to right: our daughter along Hadrian's Wall; Montfort, France; this afternoon's walk!
I am very grateful that Zoom has provided weekly meetings with friends and workshop participants! In fact, during the past two years I have met wonderful people and made good friends online-often turning long distance acquaintances into good friends.
I have been fortunate to have books and art supplies delivered to me.
And, like so many, I am clearing out, discarding what no longer serves me and creating comforting spaces where I can write or paint. My favorite writing spot is still the kitchen table!
I am nurturing treasured friendships —and I am learning that, as Julia Cameron says in Transition: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life (1999),
“Connections are alchemical. Friendships are not static. They are living entities that grow and change. Sometimes my friendships become strained, undergoing mysterious seasons of estrangement. I allow my friendships to alter and grow. I allow them to fall fallow and rest quietly until the season comes for them to bloom again….”
I am learning the benefits of clearing our paths, allowing some to walk a spell with us, and to walk alone at times.
Maintaining good healthy habits, nurturing one’s soul, mind and body is crucial.
OK – did I take a dose of Pollyanna tea? Am I keeping my head in the sand? On the contrary. I am an avid follower of what we used to call “current events.” In fact, I feel better knowing, rather than ignoring.
However, for art, family, health, attitude, I am focusing on what I can do, not what I cannot, for the moment.
Creatively speaking, I have several projects going---and like friendships, some fall fallow and others bloom in season.
This year I changed the name of my Etsy online shop from FRENCH PRESS to FRENCH PRESS & MOJAVE INSPIRATIONS—to include art inspired by the mazing desert in which I live.
Many of my paintings this year reflect the landscape which has nourished me.
I continue to be immersed in learning about French culture, creating watercolor sketches and paintings that honor my travel memories. I am currently preparingg new Valentine cards and am not above approaching the owners of my favorite European and French restaurants as I dine alfresco. (Cards and calendars are currently available at Il Sogno and French Corner, both in Palm Desert.)
Leading a weekly group on an Art Zoom adventure – or as we like to call it Art Zoom Oasis—keeps my brain stimulated, preparing lessons about artists or techniques. We all share - tips on materials, supply resources, exhibits. In early December, we ventured out on our first “field trip” to our fabulous Palm Springs Art Museum for the Helen Frankenthaler exhibit.
What are you doing to keep your “art spirit” alive? In fact, that’s a great place to begin. If you have never read Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit, I recommend it. He was an inspired teacher with an extraordinary gift for verbal communication. The book is a compilation of observations and teaching notes of Robert Henri (1865-1929).
What creative directions are you pursuing? Allow yourself to indulge in new art forms and techniques as they beckon. Be patient with yourself and know that in season, one may bloom and another may remain inactive.
Seek the company of others and, in turn, seek solitude. Encourage one another, yet know your spirit needs quiet.
Practice kindness and patience. Joy is to be nurtured, even in difficult times.
Books that have inspired me:
In no order! This is simply a list of my favorites, casting citation format aside!
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Betty Edwards 1979
The Art Spirit Robert Henri 1923
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity Julia Cameron 1992
The Creative Habit Twyla Tharp 2003
The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor Gail McMeekin 2000
Linnea in Monet’s Garden Christina Björk 1985 (for children and adults)
The Gift from the Sea Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1955
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris David McCullough 2011
A Year in Paris Janice MacLeod 2017
I believe everyone can be creative!
My next in-person OUTDOOR one-day workshop, "Capturing Joshua Tree Landscapes with Acrylics" will be Saturday, April 16th, 2022 through the Joshua Tree National Park Association Desert Institute. Beginners welcome! Click for Class Description/Registration and for be sure to click the blue link to download class details and the materials list.
Please leave a comment about what you are reading, recent inspiration and your path to creativity!
Wishing you so much!
Wishing you all the warmth of the season!
I hope that whatever you are doing, you are able to take time to be with those whom you cherish and to honor the holidays!
In light of this most unusual year, I hope your creative path brings good cheer, perhaps some tasty treats, memorable sounds and colorful treasures.
For 2022 I have two new calendars! My France Sketchbook Calendar 2022 is filled with travelsketches reflecting my experiences in France, and I have created a Joshua Tree Calendar for 2022. Our unique terrain has provided solace during the past 18 months. Both calendars and stationery are available at my Etsy Shop, French Press and Mojave Inspiration.
I wish you and yours a safe, healthy and meditative holiday. As we approach the solstice and the darkest, shortest day of the year for those in the northern hemisphere, may we be reminded that warmth and sunshine await on the other side! I truly believe creative endeavors have healing power. So, I urge you to sort through those art supplies, clear out workspaces, search for inspiration, and dare to dream of creative moments that will bear fruit during the long-shadowed, beautiful winter light!
My holiday gift to you is a list of inspirational podcasts and sites that have kept me going this year!
Each week, Krystal Kenny’s La Vie Creative introduces English speaking creatives living in Paris, and she has teamed up with Claudine Hemingway each week for a history lesson on famous and lesser known women in France’s history. I have learned so much and look forward to their podcast. You can also find
Krystal Kenney, at Miss Paris. She has introduced many authors and books including her own adventurous memoir, Paris: A Life Less Ordinary. Below you can see part of my collection!
Claudine Heminway can be found on Instagram at ClaudineBleuBlondRouge and at her fascinating website ClaudineHemingway.com which has a mini history lesson with each post! You WILL want to subscribe to her newsletter and learn more about the culture and history of France and Claudine’s beloved LOURVE!
L’Arrosoir flower shop insta https://www.instagram.com/larrosoirparis/?hl=enLooking forward to a trip to Paris? or armchair travel? Take a French cooking class with Véronique Dagneau-Bawol of Cuisine Elegante.
Or step into a historic florist shop with a new American owner! L’Arrosoir
Did you know there is an American Library in Paris, founded in 1920? A slice of its fascinating story during WWII is told in Janet Skeslien Charles' The Paris Library, a gripping and personal novel.
You may want a personalized wedding experience. Be sure to find wedding officiant, Naïm Terrache at The French Wedding podcast.
Let the links lead you!
Joshua Tree Afternoon, now available at Cactus Mart; me enjoying winter walk near Joshua Tree; Black Rock Shadows, juried into the Joshua Tree National Park Council for the Arts Expo and now in its new LA home.
Meanwhile, back in the Mojave
You will want to tune into Dawn Davis’ Desert Lady Diaries, profiling inspiring women who have made the desert their home, visit her Soul Connection Shoppe in Joshua Tree.
Books? be sure to catch Jean-Paul Garnier of Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree.
Or learn more about a collaborative creative experience at Two Women Talk curated by @projectmojavelight Diana Shay Diehl.
Holiday gifting? A few of my favorite local shops --featuring my art.
CACTUS MART in Morongo Valley, CA
RAINBOW STEW in Yucca Valley, CA
SOUL CONNECTION in Joshua Tree, CA
29 PALMS ART GALLERY GIFT SHOP in 29 Palms, CA
Remember, your creative endeavors will leave a legacy!
Christmas legacies! Santa designed and created by my mother in the 1950's, me enchanted by my mother's candy house and in a dress created by her; coconuntballs baked by my daughter using Grandma Commentz' recipe!
Wishing you a blessed holiday and a new year full of joy and hope!
Participants at my Desert Institute plein air painting class in Joshua Tree National Park
Happy Fall - which is very much in the air! Even the desert boasts fall color!
This season, I feel we are survivors, and I sincerely hope this greeting finds you and your family well – in mind, body, soul and spirit.
Joshua Tree National Park Black Rock Campground Park Center
Trials are a part of life. This weekend, I am allowing the obstacles which I am working through to recede and focusing on the beauty and happy events of this month!
On my mind? I want to celebrate community!
Although we often create in private—our creations are made to be shared, make a statement, be appreciated and enjoyed. Our creative expressions need an audience.
I am often reminded of how important the layers of community are.
"Laguna View " Janis Commentz, 11 x 14 oil,
in the permanent collection of the Glass Outhouse Art Gallery, Wonder Valley
Family can be wonderful encouragers, and unfortunately, sometimes they do not appreciate the creative family member. Even my mother, an extremely talented visual artist, was scolded during the depression for wasting time when she could have been vacuuming! My family often served as models as in the painting of my daughter above. My tip? Give positive feedback to artists in your family. Look for color, movement, something you can compliment! However, make sure your statement is genuine. This is especially important for parents who want to encourage creativity in their young. Provide access to paint, musical instruments and time!
Small Support Groups
For us grownups – life can be harder to negotiate. In years past I have been actively involved with art associations and facilitating drawing groups—all lots of work.
During Covid (and I know Zoom is not for everyone) my weekly Zoom group has been a high point of my week. I am certain participants would attest to the encouraging, safe harbor that has evolved, Originally, I invited a few friends and contacts and honed my Zoom teaching skills. If you don’t have a small group, find or create one. Not only do we share painting time, techniques, materials, artists, exhibits, and information from out various towns and states, but we have found surprises emerge. This community spirit has a powerful, positive effect on our art. Growth, progress, confidence…one tiny step at a time, all for showing up!
-one displayed her new painting series recently on our open studio art tours.
-another is discovering she can paint!
-some pop in and out sharing travel, new methods and media
-because it is zoom – we have seen studios from a variety of locations
We are fortunate to live in a community which has evolved into a true art colony. There was a time we dreamed of being an artist refuge like some of the famous California art colonies. There is no doubt we have reached that goal!
This year the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours is celebrating its 20th year. If you have not visited-this is the third weekend! Although the tour is famous for its large colorful hard copy catalog, an online version is available as well as an app https://www.hwy62arttours.org/
Many of these artists have been become good friends over the years. Others are familiar faces I look forward to seeing at gallery events and on the tours.
The tour features 117 studios and over 150 artists.
Although I thoroughly enjoy opening my home studio (and I have been on the tour for 10 years) it has been wonderful to be the visitor this year.
Community can nourish. Be a positive influence. And I am reminded even as I write this – life is precious. Cherish those around you, and let them know they have value in your life. I have often been the do-er and the initiator; I am learning to accept invitations! I am allowing people to invite me into their lives—to enjoy more one-on-one lunch dates and conversations. How do you develop community? Often sweet conversations allow you to get to know an acquaintance better.
Studio visits: Esther Shaw with her fabulous paintings and sculpture; Anja Broenik of AnjaSF designs, with her incredible clothing designs and paintings (and moi); Wini Brewer with her paintings and her husband, photographer Bill Leigh Brewer's photography
And what does this have to do with art? Every facet of life affect art. My Zoom group helps me to “show up” and provides a layer of accountability. My family certainly enriches my life and provides purpose and occasions to express myself creatively. Our art community provides a platform to exhibit, share and appreciate art and the people who make it. And community is built through those one-on-one relationships. Enjoy the moments!
My first Joshua Tree Calendar is available in local shops: Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, Rainbow Stew http://www.rainbowstew4u.com/ in Yucca Valley and Soul Connection in Joshua Tree and on my Etsy shop, French Press and Mojave Inspiration.
My Desert Institute class spent a fun day painting in the JT National Park learning about acrylic paint and the art of plein air. If you missed it, consider signing up for my April 16th, 2022, class. This class was recently featured in a new publication, Joshua Tree Voice.
This is my 8th year exhibiting in the juried Joshua Tree National Park Council for the Arts – Art Exposition. The opening will be Saturday, November 6th at the historic 29 Palms Art Gallery Saturday, November 6th from 5-7 pm. To view info about the selected artists, see https://jtnparts.org/jtnpca-featured-artists/
My aunt inspired many of the paintings by my uncle.
Family Memorial – In July I posted about the legacy of my 97 year old aunt in Lessons from a Life Well-Lived. This month we held a memorial and I feel celebration of family and community shone brightly.
Our weekend near Laguna coincided with the Laguna Beach Plein Air Festival “quick draw” which is really a very quick plein air painting event. https://lpapa.org/laguna-plein-air-invitational/
Aunt Ellie appears as herself (woman in red) in my Uncle Emel's painting of the Parthenon in Athens
I am reflecting upon the gifts I have received from the past year.
This month, we lost the matriarch of our family, our 97 year old Aunt Ellie. I learned so much from her – about positivity and creativity. I am dedicating this blogpost to her and sharing lessons from a life well-lived! There is much to learn from this personal story!
KEYS TO LIVING A FULL CREATIVE LIFE
(What Ellie's life taught – my take)
Can these habits be learned? We learn through example. Ellie consistently demonstrated good habits and joie de vivre.
1) Be open to new things. Try new foods, visit new places, listen…be a lifelong learner.
2) Listen to many forms of music. Blast Pandora on a new channel. I signed up for a free trial with no advertisements and will probably invest! I’m selecting artists from Ellie and Emel’s collection---today Xavier Cugat and Charles Trenet.
3) Study all forms of art. Try something new. Take a class, read books or watch a YouTube videos…sketch, throw pots, paint, weave… After many years of observing and watching my Uncle Emel create, Ellie drew landscapes, trees, my uncle, objects on shelves, bouquets.
4) Keep asking questions to learn AND to encourage curiosity in young people. Let them comb your hair; take them to the theater! Our children adored her, and we are grateful our daughter-in-love had the opportunity to know her!
5) Suspend judgment – listen to all evidence. Research sources.
6) Be brave! Learn a new skill (such as swimming)—skiing, knitting, playing an instrument – whatever you have avoided, but secretly wish to learn! Overcome your fears.
7) Keep joy in your life—maintain a pragmatic, but cheerful attitude, with gratitude for all you have!
8) Clean out your purse once a week (as Ellie’s elementary teacher taught her). This can be symbolic of many areas of your life—review your workspace, to do list, and life often. Discard trash and keep what is truly important!
YOU MAY BE ENCOURAGING OTHERS MORE THAN YOU REALIZE!
(I hope you see some of your own good habits or some to adopt from Ellie’s life!)
Ellie’s positivity and wisdom teaches much!
Eleanor, whom we have always referred to as Ellie, was synonymous with good cheer, pragmatism and great tips. She lived respect – for others and cultures. I do not remember her without a smile—well only once. At eight years old, I turned on the garden hose (an actual firehose because they lived in a fire-prone canyon) full blast instead of off! She met me at the top of the stairs, drenched with that schoolteacher look, hands on hips!
She was my role model as I grew up – always stylish and up-to-date with current events. In her 80s, she continued emeritus classes.
I could publish one of those posters:
Everything I need to know I learned from Aunt Ellie!
She taught by nurturing and individualizing. Teachers will recognize the name of Madeline Hunter at UCLA, and Ellie was in her innovative program. During the 1960s, she created learning centers which spilled out into the halls. My artist/engineer uncle made workable machines for her first graders to build! She visited British “infant schools” and Japanese schools to study innovative techniques.
Her journalist training instilled her mantra, “Suspend judgment.” She looked objectively at all evidence and intelligently made decisions.
Ellie worked for a short time writing copy for the founder of the Gemological Institute of America. I found some of her typed articles ready for release to the September 1948 Jewelers’ Circular Keystone. At UC Berkeley, she babysat for the legendary Berkeley physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and when she applied for teaching positions, his letter of recommendation didn’t hurt!
This smart, modern woman met my uncle in the 1950s. She married my mother’s twin when I was four, and they shared a love of life, cooking, travel and art. As you can see her, she inspired art as well:
Ellie Among the Poppies, Janis Commentz Poppy Fields, Emel Smith Stonehenge, Emel Smith
Ever the encourager, she influenced me from an early age. At six, I wanted to be a teacher as she was (and I taught high school for 35 years).
Ellie made those in her life feel extra special.
She was an excellent cook – brightly colored orange and turquoise jars full of pasta, beans and goodies lined her kitchen. Food and music were important. She loved Mexico and Mexican art – especially Nativity figurines and Oaxacan candle holders. I hope to hook up their hi fi and listen to some of the records in their collection--- a random sampling includes Songs of Charles Trenet (Parisian cabaret), the 15th Annual Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Contest, Japanese Koto Classics, Harry Belafonte, Billie Holiday , Andre Previn, Xavier Cugat, Sounds of the Middle East, Herb Alpert, traditional classics….
She and Emel loved to travel and decided to add a new experience! Traveling with a young child. When our son was four, they proposed a vacation with us. What at a memorable, wonderful trip which included an alligator watching boat ride in Louisiana, visits to antebellum plantations and New Orleans! Expecting our 2nd child, I was just too tired to accompany them to hear jazz at Preservation Hall! Alas!
I paid little attention when Ellie skipped the swimming pools. Soon after they retired, we learned Ellie had never learned to swim. She was determined and signed up for lessons in their new retirement community. She overcame her fear!
As a model retiree, she followed directions. During hip replacement, she followed all therapy instructions and had the other hip replaced the next year. She wanted to continue her walks! Although not a pet owner – she noticed how canine friends wanted to speak and was certain they had their own well-developed language.
Of her many treasures, one of the most intriguing is her sketchbook from 2003-14 which she began in her 80’s. Her beloved emeritus instructor, Collette, created new classes each semester. Ellie’s notebook contains trees, people, items on the shelf, a list of the many species of trees in their community, and a section of detailed objects entitled “Things I saw”… an Indian grinding stone, the breakwater at Dana Point, sailboats and women wearing hats….
She and Emel organized senior art field trips. Ellie spent 20 years as a “living history” Victorian schoolteacher at Heritage Hill Historical Park in Lake Forest, CA always answering questions from young people with that sparkle in her eyes and asking questions to them thinking! She was delighted when our son and his bride chose to be married at Heritage Hill State Park in Lake Forest, CA; she kept pinching herself!
Aunt Eleanor was ever-cheerful throughout her long life! A good friend of mine described her as always adorable and animated! She encouraged me to make the most of each day, to travel and do as much as I can while I can. When I painted, she exclaimed that my uncle would be so pleased.
During my youth, Ellie’s other nieces and nephews lived across the US, and I had her “all to myself” on holidays. However, I know she made each of us feel as if we were all very special!
Emel and Eleanor
New Better Habits. Give More by Saying “NO”
“What?” you say!
June is a month of celebrating achievements and anticipating new frontiers. I am learning from my new isolation habits!
What are you celebrating and looking forward to? How are you nourishing your creative flow?
From the past months, I have learned...
Cheap Joe's Art Stuff
June is a time of completion, celebration and some reflection. As you look forward to summer,
What are you doing in the studio?
Will you Paint? Sketch? Write? Play music?
To whom do you turn when you need to share—art talk and more?
Create a circle of painting friends to meet (in-person or virtually) and paint, chat, eat and share!
Sometimes we just need a fresh start:
See my YouTube video:
We will be sharing some of these techniques in my Art Zoom.
Contact me if you are interested in joining; I charge a small fee to cover the Zoom cost.
I am delighted to be teaching In-Person Workshops this fall:
Art Groove Camp for Grown-Ups September 10-15, 2021, Angelus Oaks, CA
Desert Institute Class October 16, 2021 Joshua Tree National Park (Black Rock Campground), CA
So, for the first time in a year and a half, it really feels a bit like “June is Busting out all Over!”
Happy Graduation and end of the school year to those in the academic world! Thank you for your dedication.
Happy Father’s Day!
Celebrate Juneteenth or Freedom Day, a holiday which connects us to our roots, both joyful and regretful.
Celebrate summer’s longest day, Summer Solstice!
June also boasts some lesser known holidays:
June 1 – Mint Julep and World Milk Day
une 3 – European Bicycle Day
June 4 - Hug Your Cat Day
June 6 - National Yo-Yo Day
June 9 - National Rhubarb Pie Day and Writers Rights Day
June 12 - National Peanut Butter Cookie Day
June 14th - National Bourbon Day…to name a few.
If you missed one, it's ok to go back and celebrate!~
In France, La Fete De La Musique is a day of music celebrated on June 21—musicians (of all levels, cultures and genres) are encouraged to play in public places. Musicians of all levels, cultures and genres are encouraged. World Music Day has spread to many countries. Create your own Day of Music!
I hope June finds you healthy with the prospect for creativity and some leisure. Nurture friendships—finally we can visit safely in small numbers! I hope you will soon see those loved ones whom you so desperately wish to hug!
Schedule special visits or issue an invitation! Wishing you a joyous June!
Inspired by all of you!
Recently, I had a fun opportunity to visit the home of art collectors, who own several of my works and art by many other Hi Desert artists. Herman and Dina Platzke graciously invited me into their home and nurture many artists! Herman is also exploring the painting medium and doing well. I love this painting of his granddaughter in front of the iconic stone at Jumbo Rocks! Thank you art patrons!
Periodically I send out a newsletter--maybe 6 times a year, and I would love you to sign up to receive it on the contact form. Here is the new letter for May.
Photo by Hilary Sloane - see her fabulous work at Hilary Sloane
Happy Mother's/Friend's/Father's Nurturing Day! It has been a long winter, but May is finally here! I want to wish you all a Happy May Day! Besides Mother's Day-several things come to mind. When I taught at Sky High School, we had a beloved school secretary, Josephine, who would treat the entire student body (about 100) and staff to ice cream on her birthday, May 1st! What a generous way to celebrate a birthday!
In France, May 1st marks Labor Day - and a day to share a bouquet of muguet (lily of the valley). These tiny white heralds of spring (my Grandmother's favorite flower) are sold everywhere - by vendors, in floral shops and in front yards-as American children often sell lemonade! In Brittany, I bought a sweet sprig of the lovely muguet. The lily of the valley (or muguet in French) has been given as a gift for centuries. Legend has it that the custom originated on May 1, 1561 when King Charles IX received a sprig of the tiny flower as a token of good luck. You may remember having a bottle of Muguet Perfume!
I continue to teach a Thursday Zoom Art Class - where we have moved from landscapes to introductory figures. We chat, philosophize and paint and I have been so inspired by the camaraderie!
I am adding more wedding images to the notecard collection at my online Etsy Shop French Press. I am delighted to have been interviewed by The French Wedding Podcast and will let you know when it is posted.
The Latest Blogpost
I invite you to read my latest blogpost---which celebrates Mother's Day/Nurturer's Day and the history of painting mothers and children: Here’s to hoping your Mother's Day and family connections are blessed! Art depicting mothers certainly began long ago.… Even if you are not a mom or your mother has left this planet, nurturing is what keeps us young, teaches us kindness and continues to courage. Nurturing is a special kind of teaching. (click here to continue reading)
No matter where you are this spring, I wish you health. I urge you to continue to be very safe about all your gatherings. Thank you for continuing to inspire me,
New wedding images for French Press
Thank you to the many who have visited my website! In my blog I share my art, insights and techniques. I welcome comments and questions.
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