A to Z Blogging Challenge

I is for Insect

If you’re here for a post about insects, sorry. This is more about creating and failing.

And yes, I know that a spider is an arachnid, but the bee is an insect, so I used it.

Last fall I went to a collage art workshop in Nashville taught by Wayne Brezinka. His artwork is stunningly beautiful and thought-provoking. I had been dabbling in my little cards and thought it might be interesting to see how such an acclaimed artist tackled collage.

First, we all had to introduce ourselves, telling why we were there. Immediately I was intimidated. The others in the class were artists, museum curators, people who were somebody. Mary and I sat on the far side of the circle. When it was our turn, it was another instance of I’m-with-her, as we both slouched in our folding chairs wishing we could disappear.


Wayne had planned several projects. First everyone made a picture of either a coffee cup or an apple. Some turned out gorgeous. Mine turned out odd at best.

After lunch, we spent most of the afternoon working on our own project. With you-don’t-belong-here you-don’t-belong-here throbbing through my mind, I stared at my canvas and wished I could leave. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that Mary was there, I may have made some excuse and headed for the door.

But I didn’t.

I made this, a piece I still don’t really like. A house is adrift on stormy seas.  A man in a row-boat is about to be swallowed by a wave or a fish or a giant snake. The Mr. Peanut sun doesn’t shed much light.

It’s probably reflective of how I was feeling. Overwhelmed. Sinking.

When I got home from Nashville, I wasn’t invigorated to do collage. I felt so inadequate.

I really enjoy making collages though, so, good or not, I continued.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

’tis so true.

And Tim Gunn said, “Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration.”

My collages now bear a little influence from Wayne Brezinka. I had to realize that I will never make art like Wayne because I am not Wayne.

I’m just me, and what I do is mine.

This insect card bears his influence though.

Wayne uses a variety of materials in his collages — found items, sticks, rocks, as well as the obvious paper.  Our Christmas cyclamen was dropping its blossoms whole, so I pressed a few to see how they would dry. One appears on this card — a fragile white blossom for the spider to sit on.

Wayne adds physical depth to his work by layering and using cardboard to “pop” parts out. I popped the spider with a little cardboard behind.

I was frustrated that the child’s hand somehow got damaged, Mary said, “It’s okay. Nothing’s perfect.”

And she’s right. I kept the card because of Mary’s influence.

Now to unravel the rest of the (unwitting) collaborators — The background is from Ezra Jack Keats’ Over in the Meadow. The child is from The Silly Sheepdog by Heather Amery and Stephen Cartwright. The bee (and maybe the spider, but I’m not sure) is(are) from A Trip to the Yard, pictures by Marjorie Hartwell and Rachel Dixon.



Art? Or Craft?


What is the difference between Art and Craft?

I’m not sure I agree with everything on this chart, but here is a good place to start.

Comparison Chart

Meaning An unstructured and boundless form of work, that expresses emotions, feelings and vision is called art. Craft refers to an activity, which involves creation of tangible objects with the use of hands and brain.
Based on Creative merit Learned skills and technique
Serves Aesthetic purpose Decorative or functional purpose
Emphasizes Ideas, feelings and visual qualities. Right use of tools and materials.
Quantification Difficult Easy
Reproducible No Yes
Emergence Heart and soul Mind
Result of Innate talent Skill and experience

(Found at: http://keydifferences.com/difference-between-art-and-craft.html#ixzz4Xosvibyc)

I found myself looking through old pictures on this blog and trying to decide: Is it Art? Or, is it Craft?

Philip scribbling on a coloring placemat, about age 2.

I’d guess at art, although craft is certainly an element of coloring pages.

Philip water-colored a picture.
Philip water-colored a picture.

Owen water-colored himself.
Owen water-colored himself.

Two artists
Two artists

Or should I have captioned it “Two craftsmen”?

No — I think art is the right choice here.

Quilted pillow Mary made for me.
Quilted pillow Mary made for me.

Mary's quilted purse
Mary’s quilted purse

Is quilting an art or a craft?  So much artistry goes into quilted objects, but it’s probably a craft because it’s a functional object and reproducible.

A baby picture of Laurel that I tried to paint.
A baby picture of Laurel that I tried to paint.

I dabble with watercoloring for a while — obviously never got very proficient. I shudder to call this art.

Hand carved stamp thingy
Hand carved stamp thingy

Made at Laity Lodge. I drew the daffodil, copying from a picture, and carved it, making lots of mistakes. Craft?


Teenage boy activity in church. Definitely art.

Mary's elephant
Mary’s elephant

Laurel's elephant
Laurel’s elephant

My painting -- mama Elephant and her baby
My painting — mama Elephant and her baby

Elephants painted in art class. We’re copying Eli Halpin’s style — but still art, I think.


My place-cards. I loved making these. Craft. And Art. I put my mind into these, but also some heart.

There probably isn’t a clear delineation most of the time between art and craft.

The artists exercise craft, and the craftsmen use art.





“What’s something I say a lot?” I asked Mary.

I was reading another person’s post on Facebook that contained a list of questions parents can ask their children to get funny answers.

I knew I was in trouble when Mary answered, “I’ve suddenly forgotten everything you’ve ever said.”

“Really?” I asked.

“My mind just goes blank sometimes,” she said. “Once in geometry class, the teacher asked me a question and I told that I had just forgotten everything I ever knew about angles. She thought that was pretty funny.”

Mary’s answers revealed that she recognized my penchant for coffee.

      Q: What makes me happy?
      A: Coffee.
      Q: What makes me unhappy?
      A: Lack of coffee.
      Q: What’s my favorite food?
      A: Is coffee considered a food?

And that she understood how important home is to me

      Q: If I could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
      A: Home

But one answer definitely needed more explanation.

      Q: What’s my favorite thing to do?
      A: Cut pictures out of children’s books

Yes, this is true. But it may not be exactly as it sounds.

I’ve been playing with collage, and using old picture books — the ones with pages falling out, or colored on, or ripped — and cutting out the pictures to use in my collages.

For Christmas, our place holders didn’t have names on them, just pictures that made me think of that person. img_0899To make 20 place-cards required a lot of pictures. Mary watched me spend a lot of time snipping. And she saw me get excited whenever I found a beat-up copy of a favorite book.

Some of my cut-out pictures have made their way onto cards. Quirky cards, at best. The possibilities are infinite when combining children’s books.

A dear friend (and recipient of one of these strange cards) sent me a stamp so I can add my name to the back of the cards and make them official.img_1033

They are made with love.

And often while sipping a cup of coffee.

Mary can attest to that.

A to Z Blogging Challenge


I hit “Publish” and rushed out the door.

We had such a busy Saturday, but I was feeling the tyranny of the urgent regarding the A to Z Challenge.

“Just a minute! Just a minute,” I called to my family as they were heading out the door at 7:30 AM.

I wanted to edit some more. I wanted to delete and reword and create something that wouldn’t make me cringe when I pictured other people reading it.

But I hit “Publish” and ran.

And worried.

And cringed.

We had a great day — family breakfast at a diner with 10 Zaengles present.

Slow Art Day at the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park (followed by Slow Food prepared by local college students).

The Stacks (Slow Art Day)
“Stacks” (Slow Art Day)

Artist David Harper talking about "Stacks" (Slow Art Day)
Artist David Harper talking about “Stacks” (Slow Art Day)

"The Trees Shall Be My Books" -- working title for the piece
“The Trees Shall Be My Books” — working title for “Stacks” (Slow Art Day)

That particular installation, “Stacks,” has always been my favorite piece at the Art Park, and now even more so.

We spent the afternoon into the evening babysitting our grandson — who is the cutest baby ever.

By the time we left their house, it was 12 hours from the time we had left our house in the morning. Since I didn’t have my computer with me, I couldn’t obsess over the post. By the time we got home, I was exhausted and went to bed.

Yesterday — Sunday — I was determined not to spend the day worrying over my blog. And I didn’t. Mostly.

This morning, I went to the orthodontist with Laurel, and did no blogging.

By afternoon the letter “I” was looming, lurking, taunting.

I’ve seen the meme — There is no “I” in team — or something like that, and I kept thinking there is no “I” in art either.

Jennifer Trafton Peterson has talked about art as a gift that we offer. Each time I have heard her say those words, she uses the same hand gesture — cupped hands that move from her heart outward, like an offering of something precious.

But I used to bake cookies for extra income, and more than once, in the chaos of my kitchen, forgot to add the baking soda. Molasses crinkles don’t crinkle without the baking soda. They come out of the oven as hard little balls that are nearly inedible. Those cookies were so imperfect that they ended up in the compost heap. That’s all they were fit for.

The other day I brought my father to a concert at the nursing home where my mother had lived. The flutes were out of tune with each other, and the band struggled with tempo, but they played the old familiar songs and the people sang along with “God Bless America” and “O Susanna” not caring one lick about the tuning.

Their music was their offering, from the hearts of the musicians to the gathered — and appreciative — audience.

I recognize through them that art doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated.

But sometimes art is like cookies without the baking soda. It really belongs on the compost heap.

My heart poem has gone the way of inedible cookies.